Is the Enneagram “demonic”? A response to Jackie Hill Perry
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.
Quick Start Guide to Centering Prayer
This short guide gives you the essentials for learning to be still and quiet before God so you can hear his voice and feel his love in a deeper way.