Sandra Maitri Presentation to the University of Loyola in Chicago
This article by Michael Huber appeared in the April 2004 issue of Enneagram Montly.
A spectacular view of Lake Michigan at the University of Loyola in Chicago was the setting for the latest in an ongoing series of Enneagram presentations sponsored by the First Analytical Institute (FAI) on the weekend of April 3-4.
A capacity crowd, by far the largest in attendance for a workshop in this series, had their Western spiritual ears bombarded by a dizzying array of Eastern concepts from Sandra Maitri and her work, The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram: Nine Faces of the Soul. Her presentation only faintly resembled the popular Enneagram most of the participants were familiar with. An original student of Claudio Naranjo in that, now immortalized, first SAT group experience in California in the 70’s, Maitri lived in the same community with Hameed Ali. Ali would later come to be known as A.H. Almaas, the author of The Facets of Unity: The Enneagram of Holy Ideas. This book presents The Diamond Approach® to the Enneagram which produced the Ridhwan School of spiritual study of which Maitri is a devotee and principal teacher. About a year ago I purchased Facets and read—correct that, mightily struggled through—the book for several months. I don’t claim to be an Enneagram expert, but I never felt like an Enneagram neophyte either until I read—correct that, mightily struggled through—this book.
Portends of what was to come in the workshop began early, very early—like in the very first hour. After an introductory segment explaining her background and, especially, the underlying philosophy of understanding of the Diamond Approach®, Maitri attempted to use the overhead projector to display a diagram of the Diamond Approach® Enneagram. Jerry Wagner, perpetual host of the FAI series and moonlighting funny man, graciously informed Maitri that she needed a transparency to use with the projector. This minor event was enormously symbolic of the occasion. This wasn’t going to be a seminar filled with the latest audio-visual descriptions of material and type exemplars, no outlines on the subject matter, no fat Xeroxed packets of information, not even a syllabus of what was going to happen—just a woman who brought the powerful presence of what years of deep spiritual work can produce. And by the end of the workshop the next day nearly everyone there, both appreciative and/or stupefied, felt the impact of this remarkable person.
After this introductory session to the unique approach of the Diamond Enneagram, Maitri asked for questions. With her ever-present depth of compassion she gently chuckled over repeat questions as to when we were going to get to the meat of the presentation. “When are we going to get to the meat of the presentation?!?” My mind had just been twisted and distorted into a variety of disfigured shapes. I was sweating drops of blood from the depth of the spiritual difficulty involved in the presentation. Where in the world were these people coming from? It became painfully clear, very early on, that many of the participants brought their ingrained view of the popular Enneagram and were expecting something very different.
The struggle didn’t let up for a minute. We moved on to the top of the Enneagram, types Nine, One and Eight, in that order. Ahh, now we’ll get to some good Enneagram “meat,” I could intuitively hear many of the participants thinking. Only to hear that type Nine really isn’t type Nine, type One really isn’t type One, and type Eight really isn’t type Eight. No, these three types at the top of the Enneagram represent the view of the “Totality of Reality” of each individual. Types Two, Three and Four aren’t the “heart triad.” No, these three represent the “Functioning in Relation to Reality” of each individual. Can you predict what’s coming next? Types Five, Six and Seven aren’t the “head triad.” They represent the “View of Humanity in Relation to Reality” for each individual, or issues of “Being.” Wh-what??
Next: the impossible world of spiritual paradox. “The work of the Enneagram is not working.” “In order to overcome Enneagram fixations we must embrace them.” “In order to change, we must not change.” I could “hear” the mind explosions splattering invisible, spiritual brain material all over the room. Jerry Wagner was frantically attempting to mop up the debris.
Had enough yet? Well, try this: Evil is God’s Will!! More explosions of spiritual brain matter. The social Sixes in the audience were about to commit Hare Kare. I sensed a riot developing. One outraged participant directly confronted Maitri during a break.
For the truly, well-developed masochist: “Threes suffer the most of the Enneagram types.” What?!? Those filthy rich bastards with their private islands, $50 million dollar yachts, Armani suits, Rolex watches, private Bell helicopters and feelingless personalities suffer the most?!?
You get the picture by now. This is not your father’s Enneagram. (Of course, your father probably didn’t have an Enneagram at all. And, by the way, whose Enneagram is it anyway??) I felt fortunate that I had previously read—correct that, mightily struggled through—Almaas’ book. Maitri did a wonderful job simplifying the Diamond material, no small or easy task. Temptations abounded to stray off the territory of the Holy Ideas and move to a more familiar one, but Maitri held to the path. She, fortunately for us, limited her discussion to spiritual seeing or experiential perspective, the Holy Ideas, rather than engaging in the impossible task of going through all the fixations, passions and virtues of all the types, to the chagrin of many.
I made an attempt to engage Maitri in the passions. She had already made numerous references to the One as examples and had briefly discussed the passion of Nine (“sloth”) at the beginning. “Sloth” wasn’t sloth as we normally think of it. Here was my chance: “Then Anger isn’t really anger like we normally think of it?” I hoped to hook her into one of my Enneagram pet peeves—the misunderstanding of anger with type One. After all, if Anger is anger the way we normally think of it shouldn’t Anger be the passion for type Eight? She wouldn’t bite.
There were plenty of complaints by the cognitive people regarding the exercises we did in groups of three which followed each of the three sections outlined. These were experientially oriented to looking at (experiencing) the aspects of Reality, Relation to Reality and Being as the Diamond Approach® defines them. In my own experience, all three groups I was in had entirely different participants. The majority had difficulty applying the exercises the way I believe they were intended. Sensing this Maitri modified the last exercise to just reflect and discuss our experience with what had been presented. Maitri’s belief that all nine types are to be found within all of us was a liberating experience for some participants who had been struggling with their type. There was plenty of application and practice for those who didn’t know their type with certainty. The workshop wasn’t an exercise of patiently plodding through the types until yours (or your wife’s) came around.
If Gurdjieff once stated that the Enneagram is, in fact, “esoteric Christianity,” then Maitri’s workshop provided plenty of evidence. The common Eastern concept that “All is One,” as reflected in the triad at the top of the Enneagram, is essentially no different than St. Paul’s teaching of the unity in Christ. The delusion of type Three that we are “individual players” is no different than Paul’s teaching of the Body of Christ, where each member of the body is connected to and affects all the other parts. Eastern Orthodox Christianity has its own multi-faceted “diamond” approach to “salvation” closely, if not identically, aligned with Maitri’s statement that “salvation” is the type Three reconnecting of all humanity. In Christianity this is accomplished in Christ. “Evil is God’s Will” should quickly bring to the conscious Christian’s mind St. Paul’s statement: “We know that all things work together for good . . .” While not discussed in the workshop, it is also worth mentioning that at the very beginning of Facets Almaas mentions the “Neoplatonic doctrine of anamnesis (Gr) or the ‘doctrine of the remembrance of the eternal Ideas or Forms.’” (p.v.) This Greek word is used only twice in the entire New Testament. It is a very rare word. The more important use is by St. Luke in his gospel where he is recounting the last supper of Jesus with his disciples. When breaking the bread and distributing the wine Luke quotes Jesus as saying, “Do this in remembrance of me.” It’s possible that Luke is linking the experience of the Eucharist with experiencing the Holy Ideas.
Maitri revealed no religious preference except that she believes in reincarnation. I had silent questions about the Ridhwan School. Is it their own religion, similar to the way psychology is a religion for some? Or is it like the popular Enneagram where religious preference is not an issue? These were not discussed. When asked about her own devotional practice, Maitri turned cryptic. It was a “rite of passage” in the Ridhwan School that couldn’t be divulged. There was one more important application from type Seven which was discussed at the end of the workshop. Seven maps out a “Plan” of the future as the delusion for avoiding the Holy Idea of Work—interior spiritual work, which partially includes the integration of pain in life. The “Plan” or map of the territory must not be mistaken for the actual territory. That is, Enneagram enthusiasts can become so engrossed in the power and impact of insights of the system that the map of the territory becomes the focus of attention rather than actually experiencing the territory. This fact was driven home to me repeatedly at the FAI workshops that I attended where many individuals struggled to identify their type or mistyped themselves entirely. This continued to be true with participants at this workshop. In spite of this, the Maitri workshop was a refreshing and uplifting experience of getting back to what the Enneagram was originally meant to be, a tool of spiritual journey with the self. One last, impressive shocker is worth mentioning.
In the very last question and answer session my wife asked Maitri about the influence of type on spiritual journeying. Without a word Maitri gave a sly smile while gently nodding her head up and down. A brief pause ensued. “What type do you think I am?” she asked my wife. “Four” was the confident reply supported by the ever-present, noticeably sad countenance Maitri presents. Another sly, ear-to-ear grin from the presenter. Her right hand slowly rises above her shoulders and two fingers are spread widely. More mental debris scattered about. Has anyone ever witnessed a Two such as this? Has any good thing come out of Nazareth? As an intensely, spiritual oriented Four I could easily relate to causing others significant spiritual and psychological upheaval through deep, spiritual truths—a lot like what Jesus did. (It’s actually kind of fun!) But a Two who would almost continuously be sensitive to rejection from a mass group of people and upsetting them the way she did? It was incomprehensible. I was impressed beyond measure. Maitri reaffirmed for me the way very little else can the power of “change” through the authentic spiritual journey of transformation.