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Catholic Spiritual Direction

Is the Enneagram something that I should be involved with?

November 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Enneagram, New Age, PseudoSpirituality

Dear Dan, I have run into the Enneagram in my spiritual direction training. There is something about the approach that doesn’t ring true to me but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Enneagram something thatWell, the reason something doesn’t ring true about it is that the Holy Spirit is working in you to guide you to truth. My friend Susan Brinkman (over at Women of Grace) has written a post on this that will help you understand why these ideas don’t ring true to you.

Question: “I’m enrolled in a “Catholic Adult Faith Formation” sponsored by our diocese. When I enrolled it was presented to be on the true Catholic faith “as there’s so much out there that isn’t true Catholic teaching”. A few months into this “formation” we were introduced to the enneagram to discover our personality type because it was quoted “St. Ignatius makes it clear that to understand our personality type is the key to our spiritual growth and path” and in St. Teresa of Avila’s manson, the first room is “know thy-self”. I’ve brought up the Pontifical document cautioning that the enneagram is not to be used for “spiritual growth” with the response it is being used as “human growth” and not “spiritual growth.”

Sounds like your Adult Faith Formation team is resorting to splitting hairs in order to escape the obvious – the Enneagram is a tool founded in the occult that has no place in a Catholic education program. What is their definition of “human growth” and how does it differ from “spiritual growth?” And if it’s just being used for “human growth” purposes, why are they quoting from spiritual masters regarding self-knowledge (which is very much a part of spiritual direction!!!) in support of their use of it? (Do they really believe St. Ignatius and Teresa of Avila would approve of such a tool?)

For those readers who don’t know, the enneagram is a popular New Age personality typing system. It comes from the Greek word “ennea” which means nine and “gramma” which means line drawing. The enneagram symbol is a circle surrounding a nine pointed star upon which nine human personality types are symbolically represented at equally distant points on the circumference. These numbers are then connected by arrows in significant patterns which supposedly point the way to health (integration) or neurosis (disintegration).

It became popular in U.S. seminaries several decades ago and is now in widespread use in parishes, mostly for spiritual direction or similar purposes. It received a strong warning from the Pontifical Councils for Culture and Inter-religious Dialogue in their document, Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life: “. . . (T)he enneagram, the nine-type tool for character analysis, which when used as a means of spiritual growth introduces an ambiguity in the doctrine and the life of the Christian faith.” (Sec. 1.4)

The first reason to avoid use of the Enneagram is because of where it came from – the occult.

The enneagram came from the Sufi religion and was introduced to the west by an Armenian occultist named George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, who lived in Russia from 1877 to 1947. He attended the seminary as a boy but left at the age of 13 to pursue the occult, in which he was deeply involved for the rest of his life. During his travels through Egypt, India and Tibet, he came across a group of Sufis (Muslim mystics) who lived in Central Asia, from whom he learned the enneagram. They had been using it for fortune telling through numerology and as a symbol of the nine stages of enlightenment rather than the nine personality types ascribed to it in the west. Gurdjieff believed the enneagram was a universal symbol containing secret powers, and it was he who brought the symbol to the west.

Oscar Ichazo, a Chilean occultist, later adapted the enneagram to its present use after learning it from one of Gurdjieff’s disciples. Ichazo is responsible for developing the system of nine personality types that it now contains.

Ichazo’s history is even more disturbing than Gurdjieff’s. “At the age of six he began having out-of-body experiences, which led to his disillusionment with the church,” writes New Age expert and former enneagram enthusiast, Father Mitch Pacwa. “He could not accept Catholic teaching on heaven or hell because he had been there and knew more about it than Christ and the Church.”

Ichazo was involved in Oriental martial arts, Zen, Andes Indian thought, shamanism, yoga, hypnotism and psychology. He claims to have received instructions from a higher entity called “Metatron, the prince of the archangels.” He and his followers claim to contact lower spirits through meditation and mantras, and to be guided by an internal master, known as the Green Qu’Tub, who makes himself known when they reach a sufficiently high stage of development.

Another principal player in the advent of the enneagram in the west was Chilean, Claudio Naranjo, who brought it to the popular New Age community known as the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California.

From Esalen, Naranjo established a nationwide network of small Enneagram groups. Among his early students was Father Robert Ochs, S.J. by whom Father Pacwa was taught at Chicago’s Loyola University. From there, it quickly spread to seminaries and the general public.

JUNK SCIENCE

In spite of the fact that the enneagram has been subjected to little or no serious scientific scrutiny, it is being used to help people deal with personality disorders.

“Unlike some ‘personality type indices’ the enneagram remains untested by any scientific study,” writes Christopher Rees for Homiletics and Pastoral Review. “Like Sufism, the ‘dynamisms’ adopted in each of the nine ‘types’ depends on which guru or shaikh you prefer. There are as many ways of constructing groups and interpreting the enneagram as there are gurus. So the only apparent similarity the enneagram shares with behavioral sciences is its lack of a paradigm.”

Because the Enneagram has descriptions that read like those for esoteric systems like tarot, astrology, biorhythms, etc., advocacy of the enneagram is even more problematic for Catholics, Rees writes.

“. . . The Gnostic [salvation through knowledge] roots manifest in all enneagram systems guarantee that enneagram systems can never be reconciled with the Sacred Deposit of Faith.”

The mixture of so many non-Christian and occult elements in the enneagram, combined with its lack of scientific validity, should warn people away from its use.

“No tests, no standards, no board of examination exists, so most enneagram ‘experts’ have that title through self-declaration and workshop advertising,” writes Father Pacwa.

“People do not go to doctors and psychologists unless that practitioner is tested and licensed. Should not some similar requirement be made of enneagram teachers, who not only explain what your personality is like, but make recommendations about what you should be like?”

He concludes: “Until such verification of the enneagram occurs, resulting in ways to discern who has enneagram expertise, I recommend that people not patronize the workshops, seminars and retreats.”

Additional information on the Enneagram is available in a booklet in our Learn to Discern series.

 

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the founder of Catholic Spiritual Direction, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and author of the award winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God. Beyond his “contagious” love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN’s National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN’s Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • jack g.

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/interelg/documents/rc_pc_interelg_doc_20030203_new-age_en.html , Jon England gave us this link in a previous post. It is a long letter from Vatican, but it tells what we should think of any of these practices. I started to read it and it is obvious that it warns us of the many ways New Age is now encroaching into our lives. There are also many other works referred to in the document. For me it is enough that the Church is very concerned that even in some parishes they propose many kinds of additional non-Christian practices which is not acceptable and we shall not fall for it. Same goes for Enneagram. With a genuine prayer with heart when we ask God for help, He will make sure that we are not drawn into this. God is also a jealous and breaking of the first commandment is not a small offence. I did that many times in the past when I was away from God, but with my conversion God took away many of my gods that ruled my life, one of them was a zeal for fishing believe it or not. Nowadays I could care less and my boat sits in the storage most of the year. It is incredible how God makes sure that our lives are in order, only if we let Him. With love of Jesus, jack g.

    • Kathy

      I am basically a shut-in and live alone seeing no one most of the time.  I have tried to pray and do spiritual reading for most of my day and found my life depressing as I was having no “fun” at all and was serious most of the time.  So I began watching the birds outside my window and watching murder mysteries on TV.  They helped brighten my day.  Are you suggesting that these things are taking me away from God?  My life is so difficult and lonely that I need something to make me forget about it for a while.  I don’t understand what is wrong with that.  Also, I did yoga exercises when I was younger to help strengthen my posture and improve my health.  I don’t remember it ever leading me to the occult.  In order to stay close to God, do I have to give up everything else and lead a life of seriousness all the time? 

      • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

        Kathy – with the greatest possible care for your soul I have to be direct. I have watched your comments for some time and you have a deep propensity to receive information is the most negative possible light. For the sake of your soul, this is something you should seriously evaluate. My recommendation is that you avoid reading this site for some time and focus on Christ in the Gospels. Use the approach in the Better Part and dwell with him. Set aside all other spiritual reading and simply absorb yourself in the life of Christ. Your mind and heart are in need of serious transformation that comes only from this kind of spiritual work.

      • jack g.

        Hi Kathy, Jack here, I am sorry for the way you feel nowadays and for whatever makes your life difficult. What I wrote was in response to what I read in the Vatican document. You can really have fun with Jesus, you can’t believe how many of times I had to laugh to myself in my spiritual life. Like Dan said we sometimes need our Christian centering in Jesus to find a meaning to life in our hard situation that otherwise might be depressing. My mother in-law in Poland is depressed, overweight, immobilized, sick in many ways and her husband now has a spinal injury, and my wife here is their only child, and so we hear a lot of depressed way of thinking. It is very hard on them, almost unbearable. I believe that God works wonders in our most difficult times and I will pray for your renewal. For last 2 years I listen to a Catholic talk show on http://www.RelevantRadio.com and they were the leading force at the beginning of my conversion behind The Holy Spirit. I highly recommend this radio station where you will find a lot of positive programming including Mass, Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3;pm and Rosary, and a lot of archives. They are on radio waves in Chicago land 950 & 930 AM, elsewhere check the website. I will offer a Mass today at noon for your intentions, with love of Christ, jack g.

      • judeen

        i am shut in too most my life…= life is a gift. do for others , pray for others… ask people in to play yatzee , coffee. cards.. bake for them or just make them smile… this is a gift to the lonely…  be on a call list for prayer, or to stop abortions… say hello to people and make them smile when you go to the store.. ask your neighbors over or just talk to them…. you are a gift.. but life is empty if one does not use it for others. and God…make quilts for those who had their home burn ,,,so on…
            one doesn t need to be serious to serve God , but one does need to use their life to help others. for that is how God made us , the only way to be happy…. even a person restricked to bed can spread joy to those who help them , offer their pain with Jesus passion and death to God the Father for souls… pray… play games to spread love ….
         yoga…. I will let others tell you about that….

      • mrgees

        Dear Kathy. I am heart broken seeing you in this dark place. In Christ Love for you I beg you to listen to Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s “Life is Worth Living” CD. It is free here: 
        http://www.saintjoe.com/prodinfo.asp?number=45MP3FREE
        You need to listen to the 1st CD only (a few mp3-s) to have a chance to find a reason behind the state of your soul. I hope you will respond to that call…
        Blessings,
        Greg.

        • Kathy

          Dear Greg,

          I don’t have an MP3 player.  I know there is a book by Archbishop Sheen called “Live is Worth Living”.  Could you let me know what chapter I need to listen to that you are referring to? 

          • Jan England

            +
            Kathy – You can find much of “Life is Worth Living” free on video – all of it is good!  Just click this link and start watching!  http://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video;_ylt=A0S00M3RnclOiiQAXwT8w8QF;_ylu=X3oDMTBncGdyMzQ0BHNlYwNzZWFyY2gEdnRpZAM-?p=life+is+worth+living+fulton+sheen&ei=utf-8&n=21&tnr=21

            Peace & Prayers,

            Jan

          • mrgees

            Dear Jan:

            The video comes from the TV show. There is also a book with the title. The CD I wrote about differs – it is personally recorded set of lessons by Archbishop Fulton Sheen. The one that Kathy would need to listen to is the CD1. I will try to look through these videos to see if there is one touching the same subject and I will post it later on.

            Blessings,Greg.

          • Jan England

            +
            Dear Greg,

            If you or Kathy contact the Fulton Sheen Society they may be able to help: http://fultonsheensociety.com/Home.html  Worth a try!  At one point in time I found an online site where you could listen to the whole series for free but I am having a difficult time locating it now, unless it is this one, but requires MP3: http://www.americancatholictruthsociety.com/articles/sheen.htm

            What would Kathy need to do to get MP3 capability?  I have an old computer ( 8 years old) and I am able to do MP3.

            And Kathy – have you ever thought about the possibility of making a pilgrimage to Lourdes?!  The Order of Malta sponsor a pilgrimage every year for “malades” – those who are ill – and if they choose you (because many people apply) they would cover the entire cost of your pilgrimage.  Here’s a contact site for the Order where you can learn more – just give them a call:  http://orderofmaltausawestern.org/contact-us.html

            Peace & Prayers,

            Jan

          • mrgees

            Dear Kathy. I haven’t read the book but the sample on google books shows me different contents than what I can hear on the CD. However the good news is that you don’t need to have an mp3 player. Your computer is enough for it. Simply put the CD in, and choose ‘Play using Windows Media Player’ (I assume you have Windows.) In case of any problems with playing these files I will help you (simply respond to me and I will gladly instruct you what to do..) You will be able to listen to it. I guarantee that.
            Blessings, Greg.

          • Jan England

            +
            Kathy try this site – it may work for you:  http://www.americancatholictruthsociety.com/articles/sheen.htm
            Just click on the first link: The Philosophy of Life.  It will take a few moments to “load” but then should start playing.  You may (or may not – so try it first!) need to add on media player software to your computer, but you can download this software for free if you don’t already have it:  http://www.real.com/realplayer/search/media-player   Hope this helps!

            Peace & Prayers,

            Jan

  • Becky Ward

    I had a spiritual director who subtly mentioned the enneagram in a note he sent me…..to see if I would ‘bite’.  I did.  The whole experience was unsettling….and for me, God was using this as a tool to teach me discernment of spirits, which I was learning in my formation program at the time.

    What a WONDERFUL gift we have in the Holy Spirit who protects us from things like this.  I have read dozens of times on this site about experiences that ‘just didn’t feel right’……..they are a gift from God and we need to pay attention to them!

    I believe that those of us who have been blessed to avoid, or have been shooed away from things like this, need to pray for the enlightenment of all our brothers and sisters….(especially priests and religious who provide example to others)……so that they too may not become victims.

     

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Well said Becky

    • jack g.

      Exactly, we had a meeting of families with our regular, young priest and I was attacked with respect by some defending the use of yoga and the cross of Nero in the culture, where I know that this symbol, (the peace sign) is an occult symbol with ties to black masses. So this topic here helps me a lot to enlighten others, including our priest without too much emotions. I just forwarded the link to the pastoral letter and I just came back from a Mass offering it for the involved. This just shows how this all works, like an innocent yoga exercises what can later be more. I also heard some sermon once or read that if I am not aware of the reality of a certain behavior to be sinful, it does not make it less of a sin. I also believe that as long as I try to do it charitably, I have the duty to inform others, especially Christians of what is right and what is wrong. With yoga it is sometimes difficult but with this document it is much easier to just tell others to read it if they have concerns.

  • Guest

    This proves the wisdom of always checking anything new or which sounds weird with what Mother Church teaches.  That way, one saves oneself a lot of grief because there are so many channels the Evil One is using to distort, dilute and pollute the Message of Jesus Christ and His Bride

  • Sandy

    I was introduced to the enneagram while taking classes to become a Spiritual Director/Guide.  This was a part of our curriculum and each student was required to buy the book that went along with the class.  I felt very uncomfortable being a participant and was led by the Holy Spirit to the New Age infiltration into Catholic thought and study.  The only thing positive about this entire ordeal is that I became aware that this exists and refused to be a part of it.  Self-knowledge through St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises is very good as a part of spiritual growth and it doesn’t require any New Age practices.  The more I sit in the quiet and contemplate Sacred Scripture, the Early Church Fathers, and the lives of the saints, etc., the more fulfilled I become as a person.  

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      The key to what you are saying Sandy – in distinction to those who have written and defended the use of the Enneagram, is that you recognize that the incredible spiritual wealth of the Church has no need of these banal mechanisms to aid us. To defend and praise the Enneagram is a bit like telling those at a banquet feast that they should eat garbage from the back of a fast food restaurant. Why would I be interested in the garbage when I am at the table with the King of Kings? Still, I am prompted to say that we should pray for those who are so lacking in the spiritual life and relationship with Christ that they actually perceive garbage as if it really is something good. It is a radical spiritual poverty that clamors for solutions that have no real substance to them all the while seemingly ignoring the invitation to the great feast of God.

  • Sandy

     As we grow in our own self-awareness in relationship to God, so shall we grow in self-fulfillment and completion, as it is only through God, and his Son, Jesus Christ, that we are capable of acheiving the summit of our human existence, which is life in God.  It is this relationship that sustains us and strengthens our virtue and courage to give witness today, as did Eleazar and the mother of these seven sons in the   Book of Maccabees.  I just read this in Bishop Paul Etienne’s Blog from the Diocese of Cheyenne.  This is the essence of what Catholic Christian relationships are all about, not enneagrams.

  • Elaine

    Thanks for this.  I was unaware of such practices.

    • http://twitter.com/bpj23_YM Bl Pope John XXIII

      Yeah I’d never heard of the enneagram either. Eh – store this in the ‘random facts’ folder and avoid it if it ever comes up!

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  • Lin

    I am confused, are you saying yoga is bad?   What if it is done simply as postures practice while reflecting on scripture or some teaching of the saints? 

    • Jan England

      +
      Hi Lin – every physical position in Yoga
      has been developed to worship one of the many Hindu gods.  No form of
      Yoga is harmless in practice and Christians need to avoid it.  Here are
      some good articles:  a short one:  http://www.fatherpatkeane.com/…  one more in depth – straight from the Vatican: http://www.vatican.va/roman_cu…  One of the best ways I’ve found to come to a very, very peaceful place inside is to go to an Adoration Chapel where Jesus is exposed in the Blessed Sacrament and just sit quietly and look at Him.  If you want to read scripture or some of the saints that is fine, too. If you want to talk with Him in your mind of course He loves that as well.   Just being in His presence is the best medicine for the mind, spirit and body we have available to us.   Peace & Prayers for all.

      • http://twitter.com/bpj23_YM Bl Pope John XXIII

        Hi Jan: Bowing is used in Satanic worship. Standing on one leg is used as a yoga  pose. It doesn’t follow that bowing shouldn’t be used in a Catholic Mass or standing on one leg shouldn’t be used in gym class to increase one’s sense of balance. In other words, it doesn’t follow from the fact that the physical positions in yoga were used to worship idols, that we should therefore not form these positions at all, if they have a holy purpose otherwise. Indeed, our God created our bodies, and we should use them to worship Him, the one true God! But we are not a superstitious people, so while we should NOT be using these positions as worship of idols, we can still form these natural positions as a form of stretching or increasing balance. Hey, we could pray a rosary while we did it and turn it into exercise and prayer!

        I believe the term yoga has been applied to many things, including a section of exercising that even Yoga practitioners would object to (they would say it isn’t yoga because it isn’t intended as worship of their gods). Be careful what you condemn, and always define terms!

        To clarify, there seems to be no good reason to use the “Ohm”, join hands as if in prayer (unless you really are praying a rosary along with your exercise), “meditate” as a yoga pose, or do any yoga form that doesn’t help with stretching, flexibility, strength-training, or balance. We do not believe in chakras, feeling life-energy in one’s hands, etc. Just so we’re clear! :)

  • judeen

     i  dont know about this… but in war , one takes the enemys weapons apart and learns to put them together again..so too in spiritual warfare… trickery is the devil… preying upon innocent and dull of spirit and mind…
     we are made up mind body,heart and soul… and spirit…. one affects the other … one can not help the body if one does not consider the soul… or vice virsa… we are a whole… people led into such things are ill somewhere else. to help a person from sin… one has to touch the heart or the body… to help the soul… that is kindness, giving bread when hungry, touching someone physically , hand or back . that one is touched in the soul….  I dont know really how it works… but Jesus always ate with the people he wanted to touch… and help at times.    at school we were handed spells in english by a person who came to the door .. the teacher so nice gave it to us all… the innocent , young 8th gr. ….so be one guard be alert. spiritual diserment is given to some . help those who do not know it yet

  • Lyonsjoan

    Why is there such fear in the Christian faith and leadership about other faith traditions’ practices?  It is more the language used in the manner of invalidation that amazes me.  What proof does the disclaimer have that the use of other peractices takes one away from God?  I beleive we have more to worry about in our own faith tradition than attack other traditions.  Jesus told his disciples when they claimed others were in the way of the disciples work, “If they are not against us they are for us.”

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Dear Joan – Thank you for your thoughts. Your response was interesting and fairly common when we seek to make distinctions regarding truth. Here are a few questions worth pondering. What did Jesus mean when he said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me”? Did Jesus really mean to say, “I am one of the ways, one of the many truths, and some of the life, anyone can come to the Father any way they like and I am just one of those great ways”? Is it loving or truthful to teach someone that the gas pedal on their car is really the brake pedal? Is it an “attack” to echo Jesus words or repeat them and proclaim the Gospel? Is it “fear” to follow Christ in the distinctions he makes about truth and lies? Some substitute “love” for “tolerance” but really what they are seeking is the absence of conflict as a self-serving way to keep the peace and not have to really live up to anything substantive beyond their own whims and desires. There really is truth Joan. He really did say that we must, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.
      How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. 7:13–15 (NAB)

    • Ballywilliamroe

      I find it very disappointing that the human efforts to relate to God over the millenia are not lauded on this site. I believe this is out of fear. 

      • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

        Dear Friend: Thank you for your thoughts. I don’t know exactly what you are referring to but there is no fear behind the emphasis that a relationship with the God of the Universe is the apex of spiritual experience. Only one who has never been at the great banquet feast of Christ will insist that the crumbs under the world’s table are a perfectly acceptable alternative.

    • jack g.

      There is no fear in real Christians. We die for Christ and our faith in a real world everyday. Nowadays in middle east and a few other places. We also die to ourselves every day just to be better people to others including our enemies, so fear is out if place to use here. We, I think are so sure about the treasure of Jesus and our faith that other religious experiences do not appeal and especially when they are not compatible with with Christianity.
      We do not need to experiment once we are deeply rooted in Christ Jesus and that is main reason we are not interested, at least that is my opinion. The topic is very brad and we could talk and talk. With love of Jesus, jack g.

    • http://twitter.com/bpj23_YM Bl Pope John XXIII

      For some things, I agree with you Joan. For instance, in college I saw non-denominational friends enter into ‘discipling’ with an older, more experienced Christian who knew some of the bigger pitfalls of beginning the spiritual life. When I see parallels to things we have in our faith, or even things that echo things we have in our faith, my heart jumps for joy. There is a book called Jesusfreaks, all about… well, they wouldn’t call them that, but it’s all about “saints” – men and women who have given their lives for their faith, lived radically holy lives, etc. Again – my heart jumps for joy at the recognition that we should hold in high esteem those who have “run the race” well before us, just as it jumps for joy at the handing-down of spiritual advice from one to another in a ‘spiritual direction’ type situation. I call these things ‘seeds of the Gospel.’ I think they point to the fact that what the Church has given us isn’t arbitrary, but instead it’s a sort of ‘best practice’ for us as humans. God understands us best of all, and those who seek the truths of humanity, biology, or theology all come to a greater or lesser understanding of the same Truth.

      BUT… I think what Dan is saying holds true for other things. Would we say that pursuing nirvana would be an OK tactic for prayer? No… because prayer isn’t pursuing nothingness; it’s an important *something*, in fact: talking to God (who exists, and isn’t we ourselves but Someone else whom we worship). What criteria, then, do we place on what we let influence our prayer lives, if it is “outside” the Church?

      I think these things could be a shot at a list:

      1. Has the Church said anything about it, one way or the other?
      2. Does it resonate with things the Church or Doctors of the Church have said? Does it disagree with these things?

      And under these two important questions and referencing them for a definition of ‘appropriate,’ ‘closeness,’ ‘well-formed,’ and ‘virtue’…

      1. Does it have an appropriate understanding of who God is?
      2. Does it have an appropriate understanding of who man and/or woman are?
      3. Does it encourage prayer, contemplation, reading, and personal interaction that is in keeping with the goal or end of each of these activities – i.e., communication and closeness to our Lord, an increase of virtue, and an openness to the Gifts and fruits of the Spirit?
      4. Does it make a well-formed conscience seem uneasy or more comfortable in the goals of the spiritual life?

      Others may have something to add, but I think in the end this is the gist of how to tell whether a method is “for us” or “against us.”

      • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

        Very well said

  • Kat

    Thanks Dan for giving some insight into this topic and for all the great comments about people’s experience with it. I came across a reference to the practice when i was looking at going on a retreat. I didn’t know what the Enneagram was all about, so i did a bit of research. Like others, something about it just didn’t sit right with me. Even though i didn’t really know it at the time, I’m both glad to learn that it was the Holy Spirit that was nudging me away from it and that i obeyed.

  • Lyonsjoan

    Dan,
    Thank you for taking the time to respond to my comment.  I understand it in the spirit it was given.  Peace and God’s grace to you and yours, A joyous Christ the King celebration, and a Happy Thanksgiving

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      To you as well Joan. I was in a bit of an intense mood when I responded so my apologies if it came off harsh. I am troubled by a regular flow of commentary behind the scenes whenever we draw distinctions that are clearly in keeping with our tradition. I am troubled not because of a rigid desire to keep the rules but out of a deep love for God’s people. So many cling to crumbs from the enemy’s table as if they are great delights but they are really eating garbage and are entranced by it. All the while there is a seat available to them at the great feast of the King of Kings – an empty seat – tragically empty…

  • mrgees

    Dear Dan. How about Myers Briggs personality test?
    It is being used now in Adult Faith Formation classes…To me, these classes are putting to big emphasis on psychology, Carl Jung, and all the -non-spiritual aspect of who we are.
    Blessings,
    Greg.

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Myers Briggs is the real thing and has the significant research behind it.

      • mrgees

        Dear Dan: Thank you for the response. The results we got were looking serious. It’s the whole thing around it that looks too secular. I’m glad you think it’s a real thing. Blessings, Greg.

        • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

          Well – it is a secular tool but it is good in the sense that it is merely a reflection of behavior patterns in us. As with all things like this they are really neutral in and of themselves. We can take them and use them for good.

    • Becky Ward

      Greg, you’ll like “The Emperor’s New Clothes”….all about modern psychology…..of the NOT in keeping with real methods of science variety.

      What I don’t like about most all personality tests is that they tend to define us…..put us in a little box….and say, “This is you.”  It’s hard to get past that.

      They also normally focus on our weaknesses!  I’ve found ‘Living Your Strengths’ put out by gallop…..I believe it was originally done for businesses but the have a version for parishes / church communities, and this is awesome because it focuses on our……believe it or not…… ‘God given strengths’!!! :) http://www.gallup.com/consulting/faith/148328/living-strengths.aspx

      Several of my friends and I have taken it and we compare and contrast our “Top 5″……… it is amazingly accurate in giving us insights to ourselves, and it really does help us to better understand one another and to communicate better.

      • mrgees

        Dear Becky: Thank you very much for the hint. I took a look at this and opinions on Amazon and looks like people really like it. As soon as I clear the list of things I need to read for my school I will take a look at this (I’m extremely slow reader…) Blessings, Greg.

      • http://twitter.com/bpj23_YM Bl Pope John XXIII

        Hi Becky,

        I agree with you about boxing people in with personality tests, but they can be useful at times. “Living Your Strengths” is in full use at my parish; it is used as adult faith formation here, for better or worse. It seems particularly popular among those who once felt catechized by an ‘oppressive’ Catholic school system where they felt convicted of weaknesses and not much more; it frees these people to focus on their strengths, as you know.

        But I take issue with LYS mainly in that while God has given us talents that we can use to develop strengths, it doesn’t mean that He can’t use our weaknesses, or that we should neglect working on them. I’m admittedly very new to a life of prayer, but I’ve found that our Lord likes to use my weaknesses for His glory so that I’m not tempted to take the credit for anything. So don’t be ‘boxed’ in by any personality test, and see them only as a tool in the process of self-knowledge. Balance seems to be the name of the game!

        • Becky Ward

          I couldn’t agree with you more about the need for balance.  My point was that most personality tests focus on building up our weaknesses to the exclusion of even noticing our strong points, which God has given us.

          To the best of my recollection LYS doesn’t make any comment on what God can or cannot do with our weaknesses or strengths. Have you read the book?

          I see a distinction between what you mention as weaknesses – faults, temptations, sins, – which we must work on to advance in our prayer life….and those inherent characteristics (weak areas) that we have in lesser degree than the characteristics in our areas of strength. 

          You make another important observation here as well: These are all only TOOLS………best used once we have established a deep relationship with God………..none of them are necessary for the spiritual life, but can help, as you say, in gaining self-knowledge. 

          If we allow our focus to slip away from Our Lord on the Cross, even good, solid, time-tested spiritual classics can get in our way.

          I would not choose LYS for Fatih Formation, but community building.

  • kit_carmelite

    Is the Myers-Briggs OK for Catholics to use?  Are there any other tools to help us “enter the cell of self-knowledge” as St. Teresa would say?  Any thoughts on the book “Prayer & Temperament”?

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Monique – you have really asked the most important question of all – “What tools do we need for self-knowledge” First, a Catholic can most certainly use the Myers Briggs without concern. Another book written by Art and Laraine Bennett called “The Temperament God Gave You”. That said, I don’t know that this is really the best path. The responses to this post have given me a lot to think about. I think we need to write a few post on an approach to self-knowledge that yields a deeper intimacy with Christ…

      • Jan England

        +
        Dan I think that is one of the great gifts of having a good spiritual director that meets with you and grows to know you.   Since each person is a unique individual and at a unique place in the development of their relationship with Christ, a good Spiritual Director acts as a guide to the way that is most beneficial for that person to learn to draw closer to Christ.  At most points in our lives we probably need to spend a whole lot more time focusing on Christ than on ourselves anyway!  There is a danger with modern psychology to get lost in our own belly buttons.  As one of my very excellent spiritual directors used to say to me – repeatedly – if we focus on ourselves: pain, misery, suffering.  If we focus on Christ, we become more and more like Him – and isn’t that our goal anyway?

      • http://twitter.com/bpj23_YM Bl Pope John XXIII

        I agree. Is it possible that personality tests are often developed either from (a) an erroneous theology or philosophical basis or (b) without regard to the origin of the personality assessed? Also, it seems personality tests aren’t “enough” for knowing yourself.

        Seems like self-knowledge needs to include your status in life, important relationships, personality (and by that I mean weaknesses, strengths, tendencies, preferences), and a sense of your personal charism(s). Someone above talked about being a shut-in; while having a different personality will dictate first whether you react happily or not to this, all these factors together will influence whether you could pray for others, invite others in, or make things to serve others. So will whether you have a passion for youth (maybe making baby blankets or praying for the youth programs) or those in prison (writing letters), etc., etc.

        So understanding all these things, it seems, will help me to know… well, me. And to set priorities. And realistic prayer routines. “Etc., etc.”  :-)

        • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

          Personality tests like Myers Briggs are based almost purely on patterns of observed human behavior. They are not at all adequate for true self-knowledge because they only address the material or what surfaces in behavior above the surface. They don’t deal with sin or virtue or God’s will etc. True self-knowledge as talked about by mystical theologians only comes in the context of God and his redemptive work. This whole discussion is probably worth a post at some point.

  • Newsh18

    I studied the enneagram when it first came out and I was annoyed from the start.  Later, I started seeing writings s from the Church warning folks about it.  I am never a believer in fitting personality’s into categories or people into categories.  While there mayt be some wisdom in the enneagram process, overall, it was extremely frustrating. My advice – stay away.

  • seeker of truth

    Can a person get training to be a spiritual director faithful to the Magisterium of the church in the Charlotte, NC area?  I was in training but became uncomfortable with the Enneagram and other practices and would prefer more traditional training if I continue.