Is the Enneagram “demonic”? A response to Jackie Hill Perry

Person wondering about something

I recently saw, as some of you may have, a short video by Christian author and speaker Jackie Hill Perry in which she denounced the Enneagram as “demonic.” I’ve come across Christian opposition to the Enneagram before, including within my own church, so I didn’t think I’d hear anything new. I was wrong.

Ms. Hill Perry first talked about Oscar Ichazo, the first person to combine the Enneagram symbol with a personality typing system, who claimed that he received his insights from an angel named Metatron. I’m no scholar on Metatron, but I do know that he appeared first in the Talmud, a set of Jewish rabbinic commentaries. He showed up at some point in other religions, but I’m not willing to say definitively at this point that he is a demon, as she stated. But I can understand how Christians could think Metatron was/is a demon based on other religions’ use of him.

And that’s not even too important to me, because Ichazo later said that his claim of angelic assistance wasn’t true. I heard this early on in a live class from Russ Hudson, co-founder of the Enneagram Institute, as I was studying for my teaching certification. So, which time was he lying? It’s impossible to say. So, to me, that point is a wash.

It’s worth noting that, as Tyler Zach pointed out in his short response video, that spiritual folks (including a few early Christians) looking for validation for their writings and ideas will sometimes claim divine inspiration. Yes, that would mean that if it wasn’t actually divinely inspired, they were lying. That’s not okay, so I’m not trying to justify Ichazo, but it does help explain why someone might do that.

She then referenced, and then showed, a video clip in which Claudio Naranjo – who added to and brought the Enneagram to the U.S. – said he used automatic writing to help him further develop the personality types.

Now, for background, I’ve been studying this personality model for about 20 years, and I had never heard that. I will be honest: It freaked me out. Big time.  As it freaked her out, so to speak. As it should freak out all Christians.

It not only freaked me out because I don’t want to be involved with anything demonic, but because I began my blog – which led to two audio programs and a book – at what I was certain was God’s direction. In fact, the night I published my first blog post, I had an amazing encounter with God’s love presence.

So, if the Enneagram was demonically inspired, then I was WAY off and had wasted a ton of effort, time and money. And I’d heard someone other than God and let that voice direct my life. That was all pretty devastating to imagine.

But I wasn’t going to let the sunk cost fallacy keep me in error if that’s where I was. So, through tears, I said to God, “If it’s demonic, I’ll renounce it, too. My life is yours; you paid for it, Jesus. Nothing in my life is worthwhile without you, so just tell me what to do.” My commitment to the Enneagram can’t hold a candle to the awe, love, gratitude, joy, peace and every other good thing I have in God.

I was ready to shut down my website, pull my book off Amazon and move on. I’d end up with a lot more free time, for sure! It would crush me, but I would eventually recover.

What is automatic writing?

I’ll share later what I heard God say in response to my prayer. For now, let’s look at automatic writing. This is a practice usually used by New Age and other non-Christian folks. Here’s one definition: it’s “Writing performed without conscious thought or deliberation, typically by means of spontaneous free association or as a medium for spirits or psychic forces.” It’s sometimes performed while in a trance.

So, that “as a medium for spirits or psychic forces” is what freaked me out. That’s legitimately an occult practice.

Except when it isn’t.

There is at least one Christian who does what sounds a lot like automatic writing. This woman clearly loves Jesus with all her heart. She constantly points to our glorious God in all she does. She is someone who gets into God’s presence and starts writing and doesn’t even know what she’s written until after she’s done. She receives what she believes to be prophecy this way, and she has had some really accurate, seemingly random prophetic words come to pass. For instance, she prophesied that a new protein would be discovered soon, and it happened two or three days later.

Objectively, that sounds a lot like automatic writing. Is this demonic? Is every person’s experience of “automatic writing” the same? As research for this blog post, I watched an interview with a woman who used to be a New Age medium and is now a Christian. She described how she would go into a trance and some spirit would write through her. I have no doubt she’s telling the truth, but does her experience make her able to accurately judge every other person’s experience?

Humans want certainty most of the time, don’t we? We want things to be clearly delineated. But mostly, they aren’t. As a recovering legalist, I can say that I took great comfort in following the letter of the law. It made me feel safe. But Jesus followed the spirit of the law, and he turned what had seemed a very tidy religious system upside-down. He shook up the common understanding of many things. So, I’m asking you, all of us, to consider that things are not always easily categorized.

Who does God speak to?

I totally get it that people learn about Ichazo and Naranjo and want to drop the Enneagram altogether. But these spiritual impulses don’t automatically mean the Enneagram isn’t true, because there’s more to the story. Anything true is true because God made it to be so. All truth is God’s truth. The Enneagram is observably true. I’ve been observing it for 20 years, and it’s uncanny how accurate it continues to be.

Pastor John Starke, in his own response to this issue, quoted Augustine: “A person who is a good and true Christian should realize that truth belongs to the Lord, wherever it is found, fathering and acknowledging it even in pagan literature….” (my emphasis added)

When I read a poem that moves me deeply, I don’t check the religious beliefs of the poet to see if I’m allowed to agree with the poem’s sentiments. Am I to stop believing in the theory of relativity because Einstein didn’t know Jesus? Now, I am not equating poems and scientific theories with theology. What I’m trying to do is to get people to accept the idea that God is not limited to speaking only through Christians. “Truth belongs to the Lord, wherever it is found.”

Did God speak to or through Ichazo and/or Naranjo? I don’t know for certain, but I have an idea based on what God said to me.

What I heard in prayer

So, I’ll now be vulnerable and share what I heard God say to me. It’s vulnerable because most of you who are reading this don’t know me personally. You have no idea if my ability to hear God’s voice can be trusted. That is valid. We’re told to “test the spirits” – in other words, to use our God-given discernment to see what rings true and what doesn’t. I ask then, that since you’ve read this far, please use that discernment regarding the following interaction.

I asked, “God, did Naranjo really use automatic writing? Is the Enneagram demonic?”

Here’s what I heard: “There are truths within the mishmash. Someone’s spiritual misguidance doesn’t negate what is true and how I have made people. People have filters through which truth and lies come; the quality of the filter determines the usefulness of the revelation.”

Perhaps you can imagine my relief. Perhaps you’re feeling some yourself.

I answered, “That is good news! So, it sounds like I don’t need to lay aside the Enneagram, per se. Yes?”

I heard back: “Why would you? Don’t stop bringing healing to the world in every way you can. In ways people can receive it.”

Notice that God didn’t answer my yes/no question. He went deeper; he got to the core of my questions instead. These words mean more to me that anything else I’ve written in this post. These words are my assurance that the Enneagram is NOT demonic and that I get to keep using it as a tool to help people get free of their wounds and personality patterns. So they can be and do all God designed for them to do and be in this life.

Listening and discerning

Jackie Hill Perry was absolutely right to question the origins of the Enneagram. Christians need to not just blow off her concerns. My greatest hope regarding this situation is that every believer will do their own research and, more importantly, ask the lover of their souls how to proceed.

Things aren’t as tidily black or white as we’d like them to be. Reality is messy. I don’t want this to be true, but it is. We follow a God whose multi-faceted, omniscient and ageless nature we barely grasp; how can we assume his ways fit neatly within our grids of understanding?

I’m not suggesting by these statements that we should just throw up our hands about anything we don’t understand. As I just wrote above, we’ve got to use discernment. But not our human discernment. And we must come to the ultimate Source of Truth, sit at his beautiful feet and ask for understanding.

I could also write about the fact that many underlying ideas about sets of nine have shown up throughout history. I could write about the solid foundation of modern psychology that the Enneagram rests on. But this post is already long; I’ll save those ideas for another time. I know that for some, even this lengthy discussion will be unsatisfactory. That is as it must be, since we’re all so different. See what God says. That’s ultimately all that matters.

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13 Comments

  1. Ernie Batrez on at

    Great blog Heath. You bring up many good things and questions we need to ask ourselves when discerning what it is God is trying to teach/show us.
    I think many things we do as Christians to get to know ourselves and/or heal, are not always stemming from Christian beliefs or practices.

    -Ernie



  2. hhavlick on at

    Thanks so much, Ernie! I truly appreciate that you took the time to read and to share your thoughts. You have always been a person of integrity.



  3. David Johnson on at

    I actually haven’t decided that the enneagram is or is not demonic…I’ve just found your site as a part of my research. What I will say, though, is just because the enneagram is “observably true” does not indicate that it comes from God. Demons are actually more expert on our personalities than we are, and yes, they will even propose good things to us as a ruse to eventually drive a wedge between us and God. So I don’t think that particular argument holds. The divisive nature of the enneagram is a bit concerning, because that always sniffs of demon-fare.



  4. Dan on at

    What’s funny is the “it’s demonic!!!!” group NEVER has a response to the fact that the enneagram facilitates freedom, discernment and clarity. Here’s the funny thing … I experienced EVERYTHING the Enneagram has to say about my type BEFORE I knew such a tool existed. So – either my deep inner transformation was being guided by nefarious dark entities who were deceiving me “into freedom, love and peace” orrrrr maybe, just maybe, the enneagram has real wisdom to assist people who REALLY want to know.

    So here’s the question —- if Jesus himself said “Love your neighbor (wait for it!) … AS YOU LOVE YOUR(SELF) …” which ASSUMES there’s a ‘self’ to be loved by us …. wouldn’t it be pretty important to really know what that ‘self’ is IN TRUTH? And if a tool facilitates that which helps us to not only love ourselves in truth BUT THEN be able to love others (neighbors) in truth HOW in any way could that be ‘demonic’? How would the kingdom of darkness EVER profit or gain anything if it facilitates truth and love ? THIS is what NONE of the critics ever address.

    Keep up the awesome work Heath! HUGE fan now!



  5. hhavlick on at

    Dan, your comment made my day! Thanks for taking the time to read and respond. Everything you said resonates with me and makes sense. I will save your comments and refer to them when I need some encouragement as naysayers continue their negativity. It’s an ongoing sadness that there are people who, because of their Level of Development and how that impacts their personality patterns, will never be able to embrace this tool that could help them so much. Yet this tool, along with the love of Jesus and the Holy Spirit-led transformation of my heart, enables me to have compassion for them. That, as you pointed out, is a demonstration of the Enneagram’s power and legitimacy.



  6. Efi on at

    Hi. I’m new here. I was looking up enneagram origins and came across this. I just wanted to ask how you speak to God? Do you get dreams? How are you able to have a full conversation with God? As someone who has been practicing Christianity my whole life I cannot say neither me nor my family members have ever had a full on conversation with God. At most, paths open up for where we should be and we take those paths. But a conversation? Very unbelievable but if true very intriguing.



  7. hhavlick on at

    Hi, Efi – that’s a great question. Being able to hear God’s voice in my heart has been a many-decades journey for me. It started with just occasionally hearing a short sentence, without me asking anything. For instance, I had been asking God to help me know whether the man I was dating was the one for me. While praying with that man for our respective family members one day, I heard in my heart, “Marry this man.” It was clear and to the point. I’ve always been a person of prayer, so at some point I really pressed in and went after the ability to hear God better. There are many books on this topic that can help. Also, I looked at examples from the Bible of how God spoke to people and asked Him to help me hear better. Because this is a love relationship, it made sense to me that the One who loves me wants to communicate with me. Now, it takes a while for me to be quiet and focused on God before I can hear, and it’s not like an hour-long conversation. I ask a question and wait. I often – but not always – hear a response eventually. Sometimes I ask a follow-up, clarifying question, and I get an answer. I hope this helps you have context for how I hear and how others do, too. Each individual is on their very own and very personal journey of relationship with God. It seems like some people have a harder or easier time hearing than others. God tells us to keep asking, seeking and knocking, and so that was (and continues to be) my process.



  8. Melanie on at

    The biggest issue I have with the enneagram is that I believe it locks us into certain identities that are not the fullest truth of who we are. Our fullest identity comes from who we are in Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit. Because I have God’s Word and the indwelling Spirit, why do I need something else to tell me “who I am”? I have had countless discussions with fellow believers who readily dismiss sin in their lives bc of their enneagram number, or who say they could never grow in an area because it doesn’t fit their number. Why does the enneagram number trump the fullness of Scripture? The church in America is growing desperately Biblically illiterate. What we need is more Bible, less other stuff, altogether. If people really want to grow and be transformed, a steady study of God’s Word, prayer, and obedience to the Spirit is what we need. Why distract from that with a tool that focuses solely on the self?



  9. hhavlick on at

    Hi, Melanie – I love your desire for truth and the things of God! I’m also saddened to hear that other believers use their Enneagram type as an excuse to keep falling short of the glory of God or limiting their spiritual horizons/destiny. These are NOT what the Enneagram is for or about and confirms that many people who learn this model only learn it half-way. That makes me sad, but it was bound to happen as it got more mainstream. The reality is, as you rightly put it, that our personality types are NOT the fullest truth of who we are. Our “number” represents where we got stuck, not who God made us to be. But it’s helpful to know this so that we can see our issues and, rather than excusing them, notice them in action and ask God for help to overcome them. We DO need more Bible in America, for sure! However, I don’t consider the Enneagram to be a distraction but a useful tool to help us in our individual spiritual growth. I’ve been following Jesus for 50 years, and what I’ve seen in the Church is that people tend to grow and change a lot at first and then just…stop. So, I find the Enneagram supremely helpful for ongoing growth, because I know what to watch out for in my own heart. It’s not a replacement for the Spirit; it’s just a helpful tool.



  10. Joy on at

    Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, is the key to growth in Christ. The only way to steer clear of subjective “voices” masquerading as truth is to build our lives on the solid rock of God’s Word. All of Scripture presupposes opposites: the narrow way or the broad way, the wise man or the foolish man, the godly woman or the ungodly woman. Not much is neutral. Scripture never minces words about occult knowledge. We are to steer clear of it, period. Satan’s first trick was to appeal to Eve’s curiosity about herself, “You shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”. He also promised that she would also know her weaknesses in relation to Adam, who was lord over her. She took her eyes off God. Satan wants us to be obsessed with ourselves and will indeed come as an angel of light. If people were only as desperate to know Christ as they are to know themselves, their problems would fade into the background. Focusing on ourselves is a bottomless pit. Scripture never instructs us even to search our own depravity. “Search me, O God,” David prayed in Psalm 139. I think our whole culture is so narcissistic that we don’t even realize it. The question is not whether or not the enneagram works or whether it will contribute to the greater good. Satan is a pragmatist. The question is whether we are seeking fleshly wisdom or divine wisdom. Solomon said that there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end, it is the way of death. We can rationalize a lot of things for the supposed good purpose of getting to know ourselves better, and Satan is all for that. He doesn’t care if we are deceived. But he cannot tolerate our efforts to know Christ better, which is not possible without self-denial. Focus on self, and Satan will come along. Focus on Christ, and he must flee. I think the enneagram is evil. I also believe we are on a slippery slope indeed when we claim to hear voices directly from God. He speaks to us through His word as we obey.



  11. Carolyn on at

    Satan doesn’t see us as people. He sees us as objects. There is nothing in Scripture to categorize people by personality types. In your reply to Dan, you yourself are stereotyping the very people you propose to help by rejecting their discernment as negativity and their resistance as lacking “development.”. Instead of weighing what they have to say as being biblical or not, you are accepting it or rejecting it based on the enneagram. This is not only circular reasoning but proves the inherent dangers of this “system” as a clever way of dismissing the truth we don’t want to hear. If we can peg the speaker, we can cancel the message. This is exactly what Satan wants us to do to think we are controlling reality, which is the number one reason people dabble in the occult. You are making the enneagram an absolute standard of measurement by evaluating everything people say and do by it. You are thus saying nothing is true but the enneagram that labels them. This is not a Christlike way to see people. Nor is it reality. You have ceased to see the people who disagree with you as capable of speaking the truth you say is everywhere. This is how people confirm themselves in being deceived. I mean no disrespect but I find your replies very disturbing.



  12. hhavlick on at

    Sorry you feel that way, especially that you don’t think the God who made and loves us speaks to us directly.



  13. hhavlick on at

    Hi – thanks for taking the time to create this reply. Of course, I don’t agree, and I’m in no way making the Ennneagram the standard or dismissing the discernment God gives us. People who use the Enneagram as a tool aren’t trying to control reality; that would be a fool’s errand. We are who God says we are, and in my experience, the Enneagram is a super accurate and useful tool that helps us get rid of what isn’t true. It’s not a necessity – just a tool.



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