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Where did the Enneagram come from?

The history and transmission of the Enneagram are mysterious and complicated affairs, although they become clearer if we distinguish between the Enneagram symbol and the descriptions of the nine types which are gaining such worldwide attention. The symbol (the circle with the inner triangle and hexagon) is ancient, dating back to Pythagoras or even earlier. The concept of the nine personality types has elements rooted in several traditional teachings such as the Seven Deadly Sins (beginning in the 4th century), and the Kabbalah (beginning in the 12th century) but the psychological descriptions of the types, on the other hand, are modern and are the work of modern authors.

George Gurdjieff brought the symbol to the West around the turn of this century, and Oscar Ichazo was the first to synthesize the symbol with elements of the teachings about the types. He was the first to identify the core qualities of each of the nine types, and his work was expanded on by the psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo who also introduced the panel method for gathering information about the types. Naranjo’s work, in turn, has been expanded on by Don Riso and Russ Hudson who added many new elements to the early Enneagram system-most notably the lengthy systematic descriptions of the nine types, as well as the nine internal Levels of Development, the “inner logic” of each type.

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