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Sandra Maitri's, "The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram: Nine Faces of the Soul"


This review appeared in the 2003 July-August issue of New Dawn Magazine:


While the ideas inspiring the modern Enneagram concept can be traced at least as far back as classical Greek philosophy, the majority of material currently being taught about it, including the psychology of the nine Enneagram types, is the work of contemporary authors.

In this sense, the Enneagram is not an established model, but a work-in-progress. Many fundamental ideas are shared by Enneagram formulators, but there are also significant differences and diverse theories about the types themselves, and the underlying philosophical base.

A great deal of confusion even exists concerning the contributions made by different authors and teachers. The Enneagram was originally disseminated in the 1970s by enthusiasts passing around photocopied notes from Oscar Ichazo’s Arica School and Jesuit sources. These notes were not attributed to anyone, which made it extremely difficult to know who had authored them.

As books were published, some clarity began to emerge, but even so, many assumed everything about the Enneagram belonged to an ancient “oral tradition” from the Sufis and was therefore in the public domain. For this reason, it is almost mandatory for a newcomer to read the work of students who received the first model of the teaching.

The father of the modern Enneagram is Oscar Ichazo whose contributions were central to the development of the modern system. Ichazo linked the nine divine qualities or aspects found in Neoplatonism, Kabbalah, and mystical Christianity, to the Enneagram symbol. Most modern authors build their work on this model.

Following this work was Claudio Naranjo, a student of Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt therapy. Naranjo learned the Enneagram from Ichazo during his stay in Chile in 1970. He returned that year and began teaching the basic concepts to a small group in California.

Naranjo combined his background in psychiatry with Ichazo’s teaching, and further developed the alignment between the nine types and modern clinical psychological categories, including the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) personality disorders, various defense mechanisms, and other personality theories. He developed additional ideas, and further applications for the 27 combinations of Enneagram types and Instincts.

With the exception of A.H. Almaas and Sandra Maitri, no major Enneagram teacher or author has ever been a student of either Ichazo or Naranjo. More often than not, teachers and writers are part of the obscure and virtually untraceable line stemming from self styled teachers with their own methods and aims. While some of these may be quite progressive, the majority do not understand the concepts completely and interpret the Enneagram without knowledge of its essential properties.

Sandra Maitri, author of The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram, is known as one of the Ridhwan School’s principal teachers who, with Almaas, taught the Enneagram system by Claudio Naranjo over twenty-five years ago. Her vast experience and direct knowledge and transmission of the initial concepts make her a formidable source for students interested in a different application of technique.

The Enneagram has gained popularity in recent years as a system of understanding ourselves and others in which nine basic personality types – each having specific cognitive, affective, and behavioural characteristics – can be discerned. Nearly every modern Enneagram-related work treats the system only as a typology of personality, and while an extremely valuable psychological tool, its deeper purpose is largely unexplored. This is precisely where Maitri’s book is set apart.

Rather than simply presenting the Enneagram as a definitive psychological typology, she seeks to illustrate the spiritual applications, and convey the original spirit and purpose of this body of knowledge as a tool for spiritual development.

The Enneagram’s true function, Maitri explains, is to “point the way to who we are beyond the level of personality, a dimension of ourselves that is infinitely more profound, more interesting, and more rewarding.” Maitri shows how the Enneagram charts the disconnection from our inner depths, how each personality type develops as a part of this estrangement, and how traversing the inner territory particular to our type can bring fulfillment and meaning to our lives by bringing this deeper dimension to consciousness.

She explores the nine types, the subtypes, the wings, and the inner movement of the Enneagram, all in the context of spiritual development. She includes a clear explanation of the concepts and methods for personal application, including a chapter on identifying your personal Enneagram type and the implications for your own development.

For the reader interested in the development of the soul through an intimate knowledge of oneself, The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram is perfect. While so many spiritual models focus on the external factors, this is one of the effective few that find the path to spiritual development within the mind and personality of the individual.

– Robert Buratti

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