two-part monthly interview by Andrea Isaacs appeared in
the June and July/August 2004 issues of Enneagram Monthly.
Andrea Isaacs: I’d like to begin by
introducing you to our readers. You’re one of the few people
who studied with Claudio [Naranjo] in his first SAT [Seekers After
Truth] group back in 1970. I heard your name for the first time
when we interviewed Hameed a couple of years ago [see: “Conversation
with A.H. Almaas,” June and July/August, 1999] when he said
one of his senior teachers was working on an Enneagram book. Now
you’re becoming very well-known as a teacher in your own
right, both within and outside the Enneagram community. I have
a lot of curiosity about those early days with Claudio’s
SAT group when the personal and spiritual growth movements were
just beginning to emerge. How did you first come across Claudio,
and what drew you to him and his classes?
Sandra Maitri: It was
one of those accidents that really aren’t, that’s
meant to be. At the time, I was looking for a Gestalt group, and
a friend of mine had heard about Claudio. She was living in a
New Age community down on the [San Francisco] Peninsula, and she
handed me a flyer for the group that Claudio was starting. He
was quite well-known as a Gestalt therapist—he had worked
with Fritz Perls at Esalen. The flyer mentioned that he had also
worked with Oscar Ichazo and that he was going to be starting
a spiritual group that would include psychological work. I thought,
“Great! That sounds really wonderful!” So I went to
a very small gathering in his back yard in Berkeley—there
must have been maybe 15 to 20 people there. He talked a little
bit about what his ideas were for the group that he was starting,
gave a brief introduction to the Enneagram, and then he did a
transmission, looking each person around the circle in the eye.
And I knew that this was it for me—that I had found what
I didn’t fully know I was searching for!
AI: What was his transmission
At the time, I was all of 20 or 21 years old, and to
me he just seemed to be emanating “Being.” He felt
magical. The transmission was silent. It was like what Hindu teachers
call Shaktipat where they’re transmitting Shakti or spiritual
energy to people. He felt like a real Teacher to me, and somebody
who I really connected with immediately and wanted to work with.
I had spent most of my high school years here in the Bay Area,
and I had gone through the Haight-Ashbury hippie scene. So I was
very open to something beyond the conventional world, and that
was really what I was looking for. I was looking for an entrance
into a realm beyond the normal one. His transmission was very
powerful, and I knew the minute I saw him that I was meant to
work with him.
AI: Was Hameed in
that first group?
AI: Did you know him
SM: No, I
met him at the group. Some of us were still in college—I
was in art school, and Hameed was in graduate school at U.C. Berkeley
working on a doctorate in physics. Somehow, in those days, none
of us seemed to be working—we had just tons of time on our
hands. A core group of us formed a commune, and we worked on ourselves
all day long, talking about our experience and processing with
each other, and that was really how we learned the Enneagram.
AI: Was this with
Claudio as a teacher, or were you self-guided at that point?
SM: No, we were part of his
group, and the group met weekly.
AI: So you were processing
what was coming up in the group?
Yes. Claudio used the Enneagram extensively in the group,
and we took that map and ran with it. We were really trying to
flesh out the theory that Claudio was presenting to us, with our
own experience. We learned from each other about what the things
Claudio was describing actually felt like and looked like, and
were like inside each of us.
AI:There were about
fifteen of you in the commune?
SM: No, there were only six initially,
and we kept finding ways to build more rooms!
AI:How big did it
SM:: Belgrave House was a household
of about 12 or 15 people in the end. There were other communes
that sprouted up in Berkeley out of this same SAT group. I think
there were about three other group houses.
AI: What a unique way to learn
and process all that information.
SM: Yes, it was. We’d stay up
until about two or three in the morning and process with each
AI: Where along the
way did Hameed decide to start his own school?
SM: That was a number of years later.
The first SAT group lasted about four years or so. A bunch of
other SAT groups developed in the course of that time, maybe four
or five groups altogether.
AI: Under his guidance?
SM: Right. Then things started to shift.
I don’t know exactly why, but Claudio withdrew more from
the whole scene, and brought in other teachers. People started
working with different teachers and going different ways. Some
went into Tibetan Buddhism, for example, going to work with Chogyam
Trungpa in Colorado [founder of the Naropa Institute], while others
started working with Tarthang Tulku in Berkeley. There were Hindu
teachers, there were Theravada Buddhist teachers, Fourth Way teachers—every
spiritual teacher who passed through Berkeley it seemed, Claudio
brought in to our group. When he started withdrawing, people pretty
much went their separate ways. Many dropped out of the whole spiritual
At the time, Hameed and I had been trained to do a process called
“Fischer Hoffman.” I think it’s still around.
It’s kind of a rapid deconditioning process, and had been
part of our work with Claudio. When the group ended, Claudio sent
me to New York to lead his group there, and to teach the process.
Then I ended up going to Boston for a year to teach it. There
were some folks from Boulder, Colorado, a Rolfer and an Aston
Patterner in the Boston group, who invited me to Boulder to lead
a process group. I invited Hameed to come with me.
After about a year of our working with people there, I went off
to meditate in England, and Hameed started teaching people who
had worked with us, and that was the beginning of his school.
AI: I’d like
to backtrack here a moment. Can you describe more about what the
Fischer-Hoffman process is?
SM: It’s a process meant to work
through a person’s conditioning by zeroing in on a person’s
personality structure and how it developed. It was very confrontational.
The teacher would deeply confront the student about how they were—what
their behavioral, relational, and emotional patterns were, and
we would trace these back to what had happened in their childhood.
Then they’d go through a process of catharsis, getting in
touch with the pain associated with their relationship with each
parent, their anger toward that parent, and then finally arriving
at a place of compassionate understanding about what had happened
AI: Sounds like a precursor
to “inner child” work.
SM: Yes. In fact, part of the process
was getting in touch with one’s inner child and helping
that child grow up in the course of doing this.
AI: After doing that
for some time, you went to England and Hameed started his school.
How long were you in England?
SM: I was there about two years.
AI: And why did you
choose to go to England to study meditation?
SM: When I was working with Claudio,
I had met a Thai monk by the name of Dhiravamsa, whom Claudio
had brought to the group. I really connected with his path of
Vipassana meditation, and when I was on the East Coast leading
the Process, I ran into him again and he invited me to come to
England and to become trained as a Vipassana meditation teacher.
I was at the ripe age of 26 at the time!
AI: How did you end
up back in this country and working with Hameed?
SM: In the course of sitting intensively
for the first several months in England, I very quickly got in
touch with what we call in the Diamond Approach® (the work
Hameed developed), ego-deficiency. A very deep sense of inner
emptiness, lack, and pain. I couldn’t meditate my way through
it. I think my teacher, Dhiravamsa was a little bit at a loss
also in terms of how to help me get through it—a very tenacious
Western ego! I stayed there for another year and a half or so,
and kept working on myself in that way, but I came back to the
States convinced that I needed something else besides meditation
to get through it. I also saw that I was escaping from the world
by living in a monastic community.
AI: You were persistent
to hang in there for two years!
SM: Yes. Although I was struggling internally,
I also was traveling into some profound places, and I developed
a great love for meditation. We lived in a beautiful mansion in
the country in England, and it was quite idyllic in lots of ways.
AI: That makes two
years sound easily tolerable!
SM: It was in some ways, but when I
came back to the States, I was pretty lost for about a year. I
didn’t know what to do or where to go, and I was deeply
stuck in the sense of deficiency in myself. I wasn’t in
touch with Hameed at this point, but I started hearing about the
work he was developing from friends of mine who were in his group.
After about a year or two of hearing about it, I had the sense
that what he was doing was the hottest thing around in terms of
spiritual development. Basically, my pride kept me from getting
involved sooner because this guy had been my friend, a very close
friend, and my peer. To ask him to be my teacher and to help me
was quite a shift. So it took me a couple of years to swallow
my pride. Then one day, I called him up, and said “Hameed?”
He said, “Sandra?” And then I started to work with
AI: The idea of “swallowing your pride” is very interesting.
When I first heard of you, I thought of you as his student, but
in reading your book, I realized you had been colleagues, friends,
and students together. I realized you had to have swallowed your
pride in order to go to him as a student. You’re a Two,
SM: That’s correct!
AI: That would make
swallowing your pride a big thing. That in itself could have begun
the process of a major internal shifting.
SM: It did. Luckily I had enough sense
to recognize what Hameed was developing. Even though I was quite
young, I had already seen most of the spiritual work that was
being offered in the States, and I got that Hameed had developed
a way of working that was just phenomenal because it addressed
the barriers I had run up against and had seen so many others
run up against in spiritual work and not get past.
AI: : I’ve not
done his work but I’ve heard a lot about it. I’ve
been meditating since about 1970, but what really intrigues me
and interests me so much about this work is that it combines spiritual
practice with the psychology of your personality style, and it
seems it can really accelerate both spiritual and psychological
SM: Right. I think many of the barriers
that people reach in spiritual work, certainly in meditation,
have to do with the personality. For most of us Westerners, these
barriers are stronger because we have a more strongly developed
ego, or personality. We have much more individualism, and as I
see it, we’ve developed a more individualized consciousness.
For us Westerners, dealing directly with the dynamics as well
as the contents of our personality seems necessary for real spiritual
transformation. It’s important to understand how the personality
works and what it’s trying to do. We need to see that it’s
basically an imitation of Being, and if we really understand how
it ticks, then it can lead us to what it’s attempting to
replicate. Another way of saying this is that our personality
structure is attempting to give us qualities and states that we
are cut off from, to the extent that we are cut off from our True
Nature or Being.
AI: Yes, and we can
be deceived by the personality if we think that what it is, who
we think we are “is” Being. One of the things in your
book that I really liked, and something that seems to work through
this, is that at the end of each of your type chapters, you describe
how each type can experience emptiness, which is horrifying at
first, but by staying in it, it transforms into spaciousness.
Would you address that process a little bit, either based on a
particular type, or generically?
SM: Generically, at the core of
the personality structure itself is deficient emptiness. I think
the best way to understand this is that our True Nature or Being
is, from one perspective, emptiness itself. The Buddhists speak
of Shunyata, or the void, for instance. The emptiness that is
the nature of everything is also a fullness—it’s not
a sense of lack, that something is missing—but when the
personality begins to develop around that emptiness, it seals
it off. So we feel ourselves to be cut off from the spaciousness
of our nature, and we experience that shut-off emptiness inside
as a sense of deficiency—the sense that something is missing,
that we’re basically lacking something. Each of the types
has a particular take on that experience of emptiness internally,
based on how it’s filtered through their particular Holy
Idea. The whole personality then develops in compensation for
this isolation, this estrangement from Being.
AI: Can you describe
that process relevant to a particular type?
SM: Before I do that, let me say a little
more about how that process happens for all of us. Initially,
we seem to be completely immersed in an ocean of Being, so to
speak, in touch with our deepest nature but unaware that we are.
Very gradually in the first few years of life, we begin to lose
contact with this sense of connectedness with the entirety of
True Nature that we seem to be born with. Little by little, we
start to separate from that ocean of Beingness, or that sense
of inner connectedness, that sense of One-ness with everything.
We start to conceive of ourselves as a discrete entity, largely
through identification with the body, and we begin to experience
ourselves as cut-off from the One-ness. Depending on a person’s
predisposition, that is, their sensitivity to a particular Holy
Idea, that loss of contact with Being is interpreted in a particular
Focusing on a particular type, I think one of the easiest to understand
is Enneatype One. With the One, the sense of gradually identifying
with the body and taking oneself to be a separate entity—isolated,
not part of the whole—becomes interpreted as a loss of perfection:
“I have lost what is most perfect about me. I have lost
a state of inherent blissfulness, perfection, rightness, and so
I am now separated from my goodness.”
Out of that, the personality begins to develop in such a way as
to try to get back that sense of goodness, that sense of perfection.
So a One attempts to re-connect with Being through the vehicle
of being good, being right, being perfect, causing the One to
become a perfectionist. Basically, what they’ve lost is
the perception of their inherent “just rightness,”
their inherent goodness. It really can’t be lost; it’s
just that a One develops blinders. We can no longer see our fundamental
goodness as we identify with the personality—and this is
true for all of the types, not just Ones.
AI: How would a One experience the shift
from going into the emptiness, and the feeling that you are not
perfect, to the feeling of spaciousness?
SM: First, I want to say that this is
a long process. I’ve been getting lots of letters and calls
and e-mails from people who want a quick fix after reading my
book! What I’m describing is deep inner work that takes
decades if you’re lucky. I want to add that caveat! The
processes I described at the end of each type’s chapter
could take a lifetime of inner work.
AI: Right. It’s
not something you do in one meditation and you’ve got it.
SM: Exactly. For a One, there are many
stages to the unwrapping, or the unpacking of that personality
structure, to open up to Being which is contained at the core
of the soul. As for every type, there is a turning inward that
needs to happen. An internal looking, and a recognition of how
their judgmentalness is basically running the show inside of themselves,
as well as running their lives. So one of the first steps for
a One is to begin to understand how identified they are with their
inner critic, or what Freud called the superego, and to see that
that sense of being critical, being a judge, being a perfectionist,
is a deep cause of suffering for them. Then they can see that
this perfectionism is based on an assumption of imperfection—that
they and others are not right as they are. And that they see their
job as trying to make things perfect once again.
This is why I think the map of the Enneagram is so wonderful,
because I think if a One can really get that what they’re
ultimately trying to do is to connect with perfection, with goodness
internally, that understanding can begin to undo the tendency
to automatically become critical, become judgmental of oneself
and others, and so forth. So that’s a first step.
Then, gradually, as they work their way down through the strata
of the personality, they will eventually get in touch with the
belief, the fixed conviction that they’re not good, that
there is something inherently bad or flawed about them, which
is really the core delusion of this particular personality type.
As they begin to really get that, to understand it, and to experience
their own consciousness, their own soul, as something that is
inherently perfect, they will begin to understand that the sense
of imperfection is a mental construct, and that it actually isn’t
accurate in terms of who and what they fundamentally are. That’s
the big turning for a One: really grasping their inherent “rightness,”
just as they are. Seeing that they don’t need to be fixed,
they don’t need to change. That what’s wrong—and
inaccurate—is this belief that they are fundamentally flawed.
AI: I think it also has a lot
to do with self-acceptance and self-love.
SM: I think it’s what this recognition
leads to. Definitely, for Ones as well as all of us, you have
to accept yourself along the way. You have to accept some pretty
terrible feelings about yourself, and see that this acceptance
is a loving act. And I think that Ones have to get in touch with
the aggression that they address toward others and toward themselves,
and to get that ultimately it isn’t beneficial; it’s
AI: During the unwrapping,
or unpacking of the personality, one comes across type-specific
defenses. Do you have exercises or practices for disarming them?
SM: Say a little more about what you mean.
AI: For example, someone feels
ego-deficient, or needy in a way they don’t want to be,
or controlling in a way they don’t mean to be. This attitude,
or way of being, could have become such a strong operating mechanism
that the person hadn’t realized this had become a way of
being. Once aware of it, it becomes painful and hard to accept,
hard to get over, and they’re ready to deal with it but
don’t know how.
SM: There’s a lot contained in
what you just said; there are many steps in that process, the
first of which is not being critical toward oneself. This doesn’t
just apply to Ones, but to everyone. The reason for this is that
we can’t unfold if we are slaves to our superegos—if
we are judging ourselves. I try to help people develop an attitude
of acceptance toward what’s going on inside, no matter how
much they don’t like it, and rather than trying to change
it, to put energy into understanding why they function and feel
as they do. That’s one of the basic principles in the Diamond
Approach®. We don’t try to change anything. If you really
understand Holy Perfection, what you get is that we don’t
need to be fixed. We don’t need to change. All that needs
to change is our perception. So in the work that I teach, basically
what I’m trying to help people do is to accept themselves
as they are, and to try to understand how they tick. That in itself
starts unraveling patterns that are difficult and transforming
for a person.
AI: In the understanding and
the unraveling, some of those behaviors would fall by the wayside.
SM: Right. But not by trying; it happens
by itself. Our work is really one of understanding and not just
understanding intellectually, but understanding experientially.
We can have a million insights about ourselves, and I think the
Enneagram is a fabulous tool for that. But a lot of people say
to me, “All of my self-understanding hasn’t done me
any good.” And that’s because the understanding hasn’t
been on the level of their soul. It hasn’t been deeply experiential.
Once we have a deep insight about ourselves that we feel profoundly,
it has a transforming effect on us. If a belief or pattern doesn’t
change, it is because we have not fully experientially understood
Back to your original question, when I teach the Enneagram, and
also when I teach the Diamond Approach®, whether the Enneagram
is a part of what I’m teaching or not, we do a lot of experiential
exercises with people to get in touch with the territory that
the map of these systems is pointing to.
AI: Dyads, repeating questions,
AI: I have a question about
the source of those processes. I’ve been familiar with these
techniques for almost 30 years. They’ve been used in a lot
of different systems, including EST, Lifespring, Insight, even
Scientology, certainly in Diamond Heart work, and also in a lot
of Enneagram training programs. What do you think of programs
drawing on these techniques and applying them to their own teaching
and training programs?
SM: I think these techniques are very useful ways to help people
get in touch with inner material, to help “get it”
experientially, as they used to say in EST. We started doing these
techniques in Claudio’s group. I don’t know if he
was the first to use these processes, but that’s where Hameed
AI: I’m curious where this approach in EST and Claudio’s
work fell in the time-line.
SM: Claudio used monologues in 1970
when I joined his group, and repeating questions a year or so
later, if I remember correctly.
AI: That might have
been around the time EST was starting. Maybe it all came up at
Esalen around the same time.
SM: That’s possible!
AI: In some settings, the repeating
question may last about five to seven minutes, but I understand
in Diamond Approach® work, it’s more like 20 minutes.
SM: Usually 10-15 minutes for a repeating
AI: Going at it for
a longer time allows you to uncover more layers of your personality.
SM: Yes, and in some settings, it’s done until you have
processed that particular question entirely.
AI: So it’s not timed
SM: No. I think that’s the way
we used to do repeating questions in Claudio’s original
SAT group. We had lots of time then! Back to your question, a
lot of people who do the Ridhwan Work, the Diamond Approach®
Work, take the techniques and the information and apply them to
what they’re doing. That’s a natural process.
AI: Backing up. You said something
earlier about the “holes.” In your book, you said
the “genital hole” is a specialty for point Six. Can
you describe what you mean by that and why it’s their specialty?
SM: The genitals are the part of the
body that is associated with point Six. I was referring to the
sense of castration, the sense of feeling undermined, of having
one’s legs cut off from under one, so to speak, which is
a lot of the experience of the Six. The sense of being impotent
or lacking power and so delegating power to others, turning it
over to others, projecting it onto some authority figure is the
province of Sixes.
AI: So it’s like a power
SM: The belly and the genitals traditionally
are parts of the body that have to do with our sense of power,
our sense of potency. For Sixes, that’s what feels at risk
to a great extent.
AI: Would you explain which
body parts are associated with each type, and why?
SM: The part of the body associated
with Point Nine is the ears; Point One, the mouth; Point Two,
the arms and hands; Point Three, the thymus gland; Point Four,
the lungs; Point Five, the legs and feet; Point Six, the genitals;
Point Seven, the adrenal glands; Point Eight, the eyes. I learned
these correspondences from Claudio, who I assume was taught them
by Ichazo, but the reasons for these correlations were not taught
AI: How was this material developed?
SM: In my book I’ve written about
why I think these body parts are associated with the type that
they are—what the relationship is to the type—these
are the connections I’ve made and this is my own understanding.
AI: Another question about
types. In your book, you said Twos and Fours are the most labile,
or unstable of all the types?
SM: Most emotional. The most emotive,
the most dramatic, the “wettest” so to speak, but
this is not the same thing as the most unstable. A person of any
type can be unstable—that’s a question of ego strength
or weakness. Psychologically, “labile” means having
a tendency to discharge rather than contain affect.
AI: Does that mean they cry
more than anybody else?! (Laughter.)
SM: Well, their inner atmosphere is
not dry, like Fives and Sevens! There’s a lot going on,
there’s a lot of emotional stuff churning, there’s
a lot of tumultuous feelings. That’s what I meant.
AI: What do you think it’s
like for someone who has that kind of emotional terrain to be
in a relationship with someone who, as you say, has a drier terrain?
SM: I think it’s pretty typical!
AI: Another way in which opposites
SM: Yeah. I don’t know exactly why that
it is, but I think for the more labile types, the more emotional
types, that people who seem unemotional might look really good
to them, might look closer to the solution. In other words, those
who are very labile know that this is part of their suffering,
and often would like desperately to be less emotional.
AI: This way of being wouldn’t
be too threatening to a drier type?
SM: It certainly can be. But I think
that for the drier types, the more emotional types look like they
have a lot more life, vitality, and juice happening. In a certain
sense, they do, even though it can be pretty superficial.
AI: Do you think the emotive
types carry their vitality only superficially?
SM: That’s not exactly what I
mean. What I mean is that all of that intense emotionality can
look very vibrant and dynamic to those who are less emotional,
but very often it is a substitute for a true depth of inner connection.
Those who are the most hysterical are actually those who are the
least in contact with what they are really feeling, appearances
to the contrary. They are simply discharging what they are experiencing,
rather than feeling it deeply, and so it is superficial or on
the level of the surface of the soul. From a spiritual perspective,
all of that intensity is simply reactivity.
AI: What about for the emotive
types? Would that person tend to be frustrated with a lack of
emotionality if they’re in a relationship with a drier type?
SM: I think that’s pretty individual—I
think it’s a bit dangerous to generalize about these things—but
ultimately, the disparity in emotionality will certainly come
up. How frustrating or not that is depends very much on the person.
AI: I guess it depends on how
much each person is willing to grow, and to be open and look at
SM: Yes. I think one’s capacity
for relationship is quite individual and has little to do with
one’s type, and although there are certain areas of difficulty
and compatibility between the various types, such generalities
can be carried too far. Many people use the Enneagram to choose
a partner or an employee, and I think that this is a very dicey
proposition. Nonetheless, it is clear that there are certain generalities
that one can make. For instance, for a Two, there is something
infinitely attractive about a partner who’s a little bit
distancing. So a Five or a Seven would be just great.
AI: Why would you say that?
SM: Because Twos love the challenge,
and they’re basically addicted to feeling a little bit rejected.
So if somebody is too available, as I said in my book, it’s
kind of like the Groucho Marks syndrome, “I wouldn’t
belong to any club that would have me!” It’s like
AI: It sounds like you’re
talking about typical Four issues, which is reminding me of the
soul child work that you do. I’m a Four, and I really identify
with what you’ve just said.
SM: Yes, that’s because Four is
the heart of Two.
AI: Let’s talk a little
bit about the soul child. For those who haven’t read your
book, would you describe that a little bit?
SM: This is an understanding that Hameed
developed. He saw that each of us has a young structure within
that feels more like us than our adult persona. He called it the
“soul child,” since it is a part of our soul that
has remained childlike, arrested in its development. It acts as
a kind of drag on the adult parts of us, pulling on us to go out
and have fun instead of sitting down and doing things that are
boring for a child, like our taxes, for instance. He saw that
our soul child first appears in our consciousness as a young version
of our heart point on the inner flow of the Enneagram, and that
our Enneatype arises in counterpoint to the qualities of our heart
point. The qualities of our soul child are qualities that were
not held, that weren’t supported, that weren’t encouraged
in our childhood, and so we developed a compensatory and more
acceptable style, which is our particular type. So it’s
built around the soul child. Usually, the most negative aspects
of the passion of our heart point are those that we try the hardest
to suppress from our own awareness and from that of others, but
they feel closer to the bone, so to speak.
AI: Would you describe that
in relation to a particular type?
SM: Okay, let’s stay with Four
and One. The heart point for Four is point One [going against
the direction of the arrows]. The theory is that inside of every
Four is a little perfectionist who is very critical, very judgmental,
angry, and resentful about flaws they perceive in themselves and
others. My sense of Fours is that they feel very much at the effect
of that soul child in the sense of being inwardly extremely critical
and judgmental, especially of themselves, which from this angle
can be seen as the source of their suffering. Whereas Ones are
identified with their judgmentalness, and feel noble, good, and
right by aligning with their perfectionism, Fours are at the effect
of it. I think they have very brutal superegos that are mostly
directed toward themselves. So they feel estranged from themselves
because of this inner dynamic. They end up feeling inherently
bad and fundamentally flawed and, therefore, abandon themselves.
The whole personality develops around this implicit sense of badness,
the subsequent self-abandonment, leading to the longing for reconnection
with something or someone that will be fulfilling and loving.
At the core of this dynamic is the sense that they have been cast
out because there’s something inherently bad about them.
For many Fours, this sense has the feeling of being sort of poisonous,
as though there’s something really dreadful about them.
The path for a Four, in terms of the soul child, then begins with
getting in touch with this little inner critic that is constantly
judging, criticizing, and picking at things, and getting in touch
with the aggression in trying to get everyone and everything to
line up properly, to look right, and do things right and so forth.
Beyond that, the source of this behavior, the inner sense of badness
needs to be digested and moved through.
with Sandra Maitri
Part TWO, July/August 2001
Sandra Maitri: The [Four] personality develops around an implicit
sense of badness and the subsequent self-abandonment, leading
to the longing for reconnection with something or someone that
will be fulfilling and loving. At the core of this dynamic is
the sense that they have been cast out because there’s something
inherently bad about them. For many Fours, this sense about themselves
has the feeling of being sort of poisonous, as though there’s
something really dreadful about them. The path for a Four, in
terms of the soul child, then, begins with getting in touch with
this little inner critic that is constantly judging, criticizing,
and picking at things, and getting in touch with the aggression
in trying to get everyone and everything to line up properly,
to look right, and do things right and so forth. Beyond that,
the source of this behavior, the inner sense of badness needs
to be digested and moved through.
Andrea Isaacs: When you say getting in touch
with this “sense of badness,” you mean noticing it,
being aware of when you’re judging yourself as bad?
SM: Not only noticing it, becoming more
conscious of that part of ourselves and the ways we act it out
in our lives, but also really feeling what it’s like inside
that structure. “Getting in touch” must be deeply
experiential to be transformative.
AI: It makes sense that would
produce deeper insight. Bringing this sense of “badness”
to light could also make it so much more real. Unfortunately,
it seems you have to go through that in order to finally embrace
it and accept it.
SM: It helps you to not feel so much
at the effect of it, and not to feel you need to hide it. Accepting
and embracing our soul child comes mostly through understanding
this phenomenon in ourselves, and getting that rejecting this
part of ourselves will not help it relax. Like all children, our
soul child needs holding—what it didn’t get enough
of early on. We all initially feel ashamed of our soul child;
we feel like its qualities are things that are really bad about
us, really wrong with us, so we’re always trying to step
around it or compensate for it in some way. Fours need to get
in touch with their criticalness, their judgmentalness, their
pickiness, and the anger and resentment in what Oscar Ichazo calls
“standing against reality,” which, by the way, I think
is an incredibly interesting way of looking at anger. For a Four
to get in touch with that in themselves and to accept it, to ultimately
not abandon themselves because of it, is a lot of the healing.
I want to emphasize that the way that I see it is that it’s
not that the soul child grows up—which is a concept that
a lot of inner child work uses—but that whole structure
in our soul becomes more and more transparent; it becomes less
solid, less rigid in our consciousness.
AI: That is a very big distinction
between your soul child work and the other inner child work. John
Lee talks about embracing your inner child and “growing
it back up.”
SM: Right. From a spiritual perspective,
all of these structures are structures of the personality and
ultimately what my work is about is moving beyond them—knowing
ourselves to be something beyond those mental constructs.
AI: Can you say more about
Ichazo’s way of describing the One’s anger as “standing
SM: This description of a One’s
anger nicely encapsulates the whole stance of not perceiving the
inherent suchness of things, the Holy Perfection of all that exists,
and instead having a preconceived idea of how things ought to
be if they are to be “right.” This whole position
is one of opposing things as they are, including oneself, and
is the heart of a One’s suffering. This stance is their
passion, the feel of their inner atmosphere, the core and nature
of their anger. So instead of perceiving and accepting things
as they are, they measure them against their ideas of perfection,
and as such are standing against what is.
AI: It’s hard to let
go of such strong and deeply held beliefs.
You talk in your book about the lataif, the “subtle centers
described in the Sufi system as doors into the essential realm.”
Would you talk about that?
SM: We work initially with the five
main ones in the Diamond Approach®. They are the entryways
into particular qualities of Being, of True Nature, that are needed
in order to travel the path. These qualities, or essential aspects,
also develop as we travel it. For instance, one latifa is what
we call the Red, or the Strength latifa. [Editor’s note:
lataif is plural, and latifa is singular.] As one works on oneself,
one develops more and more inner strength, inner resiliency, courage
(which is the effect of strength on the heart), a sense of being
able to generate things, to initiate things, to step out into
new territory, both inwardly as well as outwardly.
AI: Would you talk more about
stepping into new territory?
SM: The personality is a realm of sameness within
ourselves that the Enneagram of personality describes very precisely.
To the extent that we’re identified with our personalities,
we live in a universe that, despite its variation, basically is
a tape loop that just keeps repeating. It’s neatly defined
by our enneatype, and all the writing about the Enneagram describes
this tape loop in infinite detail. To actually step into something
beyond the personality, which is to begin to move out of our structured
sense of reality, requires courage. That’s really what the
work of transformation, from the perspective of the Red, is about.
It’s about moving into new territory beyond the personality.
Developing the strength and capacity to be willing to experience
something new, something different, something unfamiliar. One
of the characteristics of our personality structures, and our
clinging to them, is that even though they make us miserable to
greater or lesser extents, there’s a sense of familiarity
about them. For many people, to step out of their suffering can
take a huge amount of courage, paradoxical as that may sound.
AI: I’m at a turning
point in my life in a number of ways, and feeling just that—that
I’m about to step into an abyss. Sometimes I’m very
excited about it, and other times I panic. I’m asking this
question because I feel like that’s exactly what I need—I
need more Red here! Do you have any advice on developing one’s
Red?, or however you would state it?
SM: Yes—what would help is to
articulate and face your fears, and to really get that they’re
ideas about what’s going to happen. Until you actually travel
the territory, you have no idea what’s going to be there.
I think a lot of our fear is feeling that we don’t have
what it takes to be able to deal with what we might get into.
Does that resonate with you?
AI: Oh, yes—unfortunately!
You say facing the fear and realizing it’s just an idea
SM: There’s a lot more to it—that’s
one of the understandings along the way.
AI: Tell me more about it.
SM: One of our understandings in the
Diamond Approach® is that there are various qualities of Being
that are more difficult for particular people, and each of us
has particular ones that for one reason or another we lost the
most access to. From that perspective, what we need is to re-gain
our access to them. That will involve feeling the absence of them
and may involve exploring our history of how we lost contact with
those particular qualities within ourselves, and that’s
a long process. It demands really looking into our childhood and
re-experiencing this loss, and experiencing that hole in our consciousness.
AI: Using myself as an example,
if I need to work on developing my Red—how would you phrase
SM: You can phrase it that way, but
it’s important to understand that you have it—you
have the strength—and you may not be aware of it. It is
simply blocked out of your consciousness. It needs to be made
more conscious, more incorporated into your sense of yourself,
a recognition of your own capacity.
AI: To “develop my Red,”
I’d accept that my fear is “just” an idea, and
then go into the history of losing my “Red.” So I
would then go into childhood memories of when I first lost contact
with my courage and my strength?
SM: Yes, and if that’s a big pattern,
there’s going to be a lot of history there; not just one
incident, but a whole pattern.
AI: Do you have repeating questions
SM: (laughter) “Tell me a reason
you don’t believe you’re strong.” I’m
being a bit facetious—there’s a whole long teaching
we do about the Red.
AI: Would you talk more about
SM: The Red has lots of nuances to it.
It has to do with strength, it has to do with courage, it has
to do with the sense of inner capacity and ability, it has to
do with excitement, it has to do with glamour or pizzazz, of the
aliveness, juiciness of life, a sense of electricity, and so forth.
Each of the lataif can’t be narrowed down to one particular
quality. Each is a whole gestalt, so as we work on it, we look
at each of the nuances of that particular latifa and some of our
history that went into the loss of contact with it. One of the
things that we need to understand about the Red is how we attempt
to be falsely strong, how we attempt to compensate for the lack
of feeling real strength, and that’s something that you
see in people who try to be real macho or macha—those who
try to be really tough, really strong—but the strength is
rigid, it’s not flexible. If we compensate for the loss
of contact with our inherent strength with artificial or self-generated
strength, it inevitably is rigid and fixed. One metaphor that
Hameed uses is that it’s like using a blow torch to light
a fire on the stove. We need to get in touch with how we attempt
to be falsely strong, and to understand that real strength is
the capacity to be flexible and resilient and to rise to whatever
is demanded of us, depending on the situation. This will help
us get in touch with the gap in our access to true strength, which
is what it takes for this quality to really arise in our consciousness—contacting
the lack rather than trying to fill it.
We can spend a year or two years in the Diamond Approach®
working on the five major lataif. A year is pretty minimal, since
really integrating them often takes many, many years.
AI: Having a sense of real
strength along with flexibility can give you the courage to step
into new territory.
SM: Yes. As you start accessing a sense
of inner strength, a sense that you can do, that you do have the
capacity to deal with what life presents you with, and that this
capacity is inherently a part of who and what you are, naturally
gives rise to courage.
AI: This seems related to
will. In your book, you describe will as “feeling the presence
of Being as a steadfast and unswerving inner support.” One
of the ways I would describe a lack of will, and this may be a
different kind of will, is when you know you want to or you must
do something, and you’re unable to exert the will to actually
do it. Can you give an example of how a person in that situation
could learn how to exert will?
SM: (long pause) The reason I’m
hesitating is that actually reclaiming access to one’s will
is not just a matter of being able to do things that you want
or need to do. Many people, for example, counterphobic Sixes,
can force themselves to do things that are difficult without really
being in touch with the inner support and confidence that arises
as a result of contacting the steadfastness and indestructibility
of our True Nature. On the other hand, there are specific things
that a person can do to strengthen their access to will. One of
the things we do in the Diamond Approach® is that people take
“aims.” This is something I believe Hameed incorporated
from the Gurdjieff work, which works a lot on the development
of true will. Students state intentions to do something that’s
very difficult for them. And they use the support of the group
that they’re in—and the stating of their intention
in the presence of that group—to help support their actually
doing what they’re trying to do. That is one of the ways
of developing the will.
AI: Do you think you need to
actually state that intention, and to have a “witness”
to it, so to speak?
SM: It can be necessary for some people.
I think it’s individual, but for some people whose will
is quite weak, taking an intention in that way can really help
them to be able to follow through. The fact that they’ve
said “I am going to do this,” and they’ve made
a commitment to it in the presence of other people, can be a real
support, and can be a lot easier than just saying to yourself,
“Oh, I really need to do that thing…I swear I’ll
do it.” People make New Year’s resolutions every year
that they break! Using real will is actually aligning your soul
with your intention. If you do that, then you’re really
supporting your will, and your capacity to persevere.
AI: How do you align your soul
with your intention?
SM: You feel your intention and you
commit yourself unreservedly to fulfilling it in the depths of
your soul. Being able to do that is part of a larger teaching,
a larger work on oneself. It’s part of the unearthing of
that particular quality of being.
AI: Unearthing will?
SM: Yes. And that’s a very long
process. What I’m trying to say is that it’s not simple.
It’s not cause and effect. You can’t do a particular
thing or an exercise that will actually connect you with essential
will. There’s a whole process of understanding needed about
perceiving what’s happening with you in relation to that
quality of Being, and basically getting in touch with the lack
of that capacity, and understanding your defenses against the
lack, and the ways that you try to compensate for the lack. One
of our understandings in the Diamond Approach® is that if
you really let yourself feel the absence of a quality of Being,
which we call an essential aspect, in time it will start showing
up—this is because it’s present all the time. We have
just screened it out from our sense of reality.
AI: Yes, that makes sense.
It’s counter to what you would think. If you really focus
on not having will, it will eventually emerge.
SM: Yes, if you let yourself feel the
AI: Do you think that in childhood
or early life, certain experiences can damage your ability to
use your will?
AI: Can you give an example
of how that might occur?
SM: If a parent is constantly telling
you to be careful, you’re going to get hurt, don’t
do that, let me do it for you, that will undermine a child’s
will. They’ll lose the confidence that they can do what
they need to do and that they’ll survive and they’ll
be okay doing it. Another way we lose access to our will is the
opposite situation, where a child is prematurely forced to do
things that they’re not capable of doing yet.
AI: So they’re taking
on someone else’s will.
SM: Yes, you can look at it that way,
in the sense that they are made to conform to someone else’s
expectations of them. Also, if a child is brought up under conditions
that are far too rigid, they lose the capacity to know what they
really want, which is part of the will also. “What is my
will? What is my direction?”
AI: Isn’t it interesting
that children can grow up in the same household, with the same
parents who are very rigid, and one will develop will and the
AI: It goes back to type not
being nurture, but nature, something that you’re born with.
SM: There’s the innate endowment,
and then there’s the person’s enneatype that causes
them to respond differently from the way a sibling might respond
to the same parent.
AI: Another topic I’d
like to address regards the subtypes. In your book, you said something
with a slightly different angle than I’d thought of before.
You said the subtype doesn’t change. I’ve heard others
say that depending on your life situation, a different one will
come to the forefront.
SM: What I meant was one particular
instinct will be the most dominant—one life-arena will be
a central preoccupation. I’m not saying that in certain
situations, the other ones won’t kick in. If you’re
in a social situation, of course your social instinct kicks in.
But one of the instincts will be the one that your personality
is the most organized around. In Claudio’s group, we did
a very long exercise of looking at our passion in all of the situations
of our lives. So we got to see where the passion came out the
most strongly. That was how we figured out our instinctual subtype.
For instance, if you’re a Two and your pride comes out mostly
around sexual situations, relationship issues, and so forth, then
it’s pretty clear that you’re a Sexual Two.
AI: You said in your book that
we begin the journey back to our True Nature at point Three, and
then we go to Six and then to Nine. Can you describe why it goes
in that order?
SM: I was looking at the inner triangle
as a blueprint or an archetypal map of the loss of contact with
Being at point Nine, the existential fear that develops at point
Six as a result of that loss of contact, and then the developing
of the personality, or the persona, at point Three. I’m
not looking at it here in terms of the types themselves, but of
a much larger map that the inner triangle represents (among other
things) that is universal for everybody.
AI: So to go back home, you’d
reverse that process and begin with Three, where the persona begins.
SM: Exactly. You have to start looking
at the structure of your personality, who you have come to take
yourself to be, and in the course of doing that, sooner or later
you’ll start to get in touch with the fear that’s
driving that structure at point Six, and the emptiness that gives
rise to the fear, which is represented by point Nine. If you really
let yourself go through that emptiness, or that sense of absence
or lack, you’ll get in touch with what’s missing in
your consciousness. Another way of putting it is that when you
experience the inner emptiness at the core of the personality
without the conviction that something is wrong, you will begin
to get in touch with the profundity, the mystery of our ultimate
nature, which is both presence and absence, existence and nonexistence
at the same time.
AI: Is recognizing what’s
missing in your consciousness part of returning back to essence
or True Nature?
SM: Yes, but this recognition must be
complete—in other words, it must be fully experiential rather
than simply conceptual. When you recognize what’s missing
in this way, you realize that the idea that something is missing
has been the misconception, and that everything you need and are
has always been present, and you know this because you experience
this. That’s really the big picture of the process represented
by the inner triangle.
AI: So you wouldn’t then
continue the journey by doing 1-4-2-8-5-7?
SM: I don’t think it works that
way—we’re talking about two different levels of reality
here. From this perspective, the inner triangle refers very specifically
to the loss of contact with Being. And I think that the inner
triangle is more central and universal in that sense, and the
other types can be seen as elaborations of that process.
AI: That makes sense.
SM: Just as point Nine, which has to
do with the principle of losing contact with Being, referred to
in some spiritual traditions as “going to sleep” or
“falling into ignorance,” is the fundamental principle
underlying each of the types. That’s why I call it the “mother”
of all the types. The inner triangle in the way that I just described
it functions on that kind of level.
AI: Speaking of the mother
of all the types sitting at the top of the symbol, what would
you say about the position of Four and Five being at the bottom?
SM: People have asked me about that.
I know that Gurdjieff talked about it, and I honestly don’t
know his theory well enough to be articulate about it. But as
I understand it, there’s a stage in inner work that points
Four and Five represent in his system that has to do with a crossing
of a particular inner abyss. But I really haven’t thought
a lot about it, and his logos regarding the Enneagram is different
from the one I learned from Claudio.
AI: I’ve heard people
talk about Four and Five sitting in the abyss of the Enneagram,
and I feel it sometimes!
Another question I have is more about typing. As we learn the
Enneagram, it’s inevitable that we begin, at least in our
own minds, to type the people we know. It’s a trap in a
lot of ways. One trap is if we type Uncle Charlie, for instance,
as an Eight, and if he happens to be an unhealthy example of an
Eight, that could tarnish our impression of Eights so we think
all Eights have his negative attributes. How can people overcome
SM: Before I answer that, I want to
say something about the whole issue of healthy or unhealthy. This
is something I feel strongly about. I know some writers talk about
healthy and unhealthy traits, or the high and low of a type, and
basically from the perspective that I look at the Enneagram from,
the personality is the personality, and we’ve got that whole
gamut of experiences, of behaviors, of emotions, that can be called
healthy or unhealthy, high or low, within each of us. I’m
not sure that that categorization works from a spiritual perspective.
It really refers to the relative adjustment of the ego.
AI: But if there’s an
Idi Amin, or a Saddam Hussein, for example, whom you’ve
typed as Eights, if you have an image of someone like that in
your mind, you have an exemplar in your mind of what you think
of as that type. Then, if you meet someone who may be an Eight
but who’s not like that exemplar, you may not recognize
the person as an Eight.
SM: That’s why you really need
to understand the way that each type ticks—not simply the
external manifestation. If you really understand the core inner
dynamics that are happening intrapsychically—within a person’s
own consciousness—and you understand the defenses, the compensations,
and the whole delusion that they’re oriented around, meaning
the loss of the Holy Idea that that personality is oriented around,
then I think you’re less influenced by the more external
behavioral manifestations that you see, and you really understand
how that type operates.
AI: In other words, you see
the loss of the Holy Idea more than the behavior itself.
SM: In a sense. In addition to the behavior
patterns, you need to discern the loss of the particular Holy
Idea that the behaviors are oriented around. You need to grasp
the whole way the personality is attempting to cope and compensate
for that loss, and that entire pattern bears the stamp of each
type. That’s how you can type somebody accurately.
AI: In a way this is what we’ve
been talking about, but would you address the difference in how
the Enneagram community per se uses the Enneagram versus how you
use it in the Diamond Approach® work?
SM: The way we use it is as a map of
the territory that one is traveling through and working on in
the path of inner transformation. The Enneagram is really a subset
of that work, the work of spiritual development, since it is a
map rather than the territory or the method of traversing it.
That’s what I think the real place of the Enneagram is,
and that’s the context it was originally taught in. It can
be used for lots and lots of other things, but I think this is
what it was intended for—as an inner road map. We use it
initially in the Diamond Approach® as a tool to help people
get in touch with how their personality functions, and at later
stages we work with the Holy Ideas and the Virtues more specifically.
AI: It seems that as a tool
by itself, it doesn’t have much to offer.
SM: Right. If you isolate it to the Enneagram
of Personality, you also lose the full dimensionality of the system
out of which it arose, as well as not invoking to consciousness
the full dimensionality of ourselves.
AI: It seems more
and more Enneagram teachers are adding a spiritual perspective
to their teaching.
SM: Yes, and I think maybe Hameed’s
book was responsible for that to a certain extent. He started
illuminating the aspects of the Enneagram that got lost in the
process of it becoming popularized. I think the Enneagram is universal
knowledge; it’s a map of reality. So if somebody starts
pointing to an aspect of it, the reality being pointed to is bound
to start arising in people’s consciousness.
AI: I hear the terms Ridhwan
School, Diamond Heart School, and the Diamond Heart approach used
synonymously. What are the distinctions?
SM: The name of our school is the Ridhwan
School, and we teach the Diamond Approach®, which is the name
for the work that we do. Diamond Heart is the name of one of our
programs. Many people are starting to call our work the Diamond
Heart work, but it’s really called the Diamond Approach®.
The full name is the Diamond Approach® to Inner Realization.
We have a program called Diamond Heart Retreats in which the work
is taught in retreat format several times a year, and there are
the Diamond Heart Groups that are ongoing monthly groups. We probably
have too many names!
AI: Is there anything we haven’t
covered that you’d like to add at this point?
SM: One thing that I’d like to add is something
I feel very strongly about: the Enneagram is only a map. It’s
not the territory. I see a lot of people getting caught in the
Enneagram itself as having some particular reality. It becomes
a reified substitute for direct experience for many people, and
that is not what it was intended to be. It’s just a map
of that reality—albeit a very powerful and accurate one.
It’s very important for people to understand that. Also,
along the same lines, another thing I’ve seen is that a
lot of people are confused by the different ways in which it’s
taught or used. It’s a map of personality and of Being,
but the path to reconnecting the two is not indicated in the Enneagram
itself. It doesn’t tell you anything about how to get there.
So the way that the map of the Enneagram is used or interpreted,
the way one travels that map, is not embedded in the map itself.
I think that’s something a lot of people don’t understand,
and because of that, it can become a kind of religion—which
it definitely is not and I don’t think was ever meant to
The Enneagram can open the door to aspects of our personalities
that we might find deeply disturbing, as well as to dimensions
of ourselves beyond who we have historically taken ourselves to
be, and so it is a very powerful, and in a sense, magical tool.
So I would like to end with a word of encouragement for the Enneagram’s
sensitive and wise usage.