The Enneagram and Integral Psychology, Part 2

Integral Enneagram

This is the second half of my discussion about how the Enneagram and Ken Wilber’s Integral Psychology intersect. After looking at the integral concept overall (the Great Nest) and where the Enneagram fits into this scheme, let’s now look at what awareness means to each approach and whether there can be an “integral Enneagram.”

Here’s what Wilber has to say about awareness:

… awareness in and of itself is curative. Every therapeutic school … attempts, in its own way, to allow consciousness to encounter (or re-encounter) facets of experience that were previously alienated, malformed, distorted, or ignored … by experiencing these facets fully, consciousness can genuinely acknowledge these elements and thereby let go of them: see them as an object, and thus differentiate from them, de-embed from them, transcend them – and then integrate them.

Riso and Hudson agree that awareness is curative but have a slightly different perspective on the matter:

Awareness is vitally important in the work of transformation because the habits of our personality let go most completely when we see them as they are occurring. Analyzing past behavior is helpful, but it is not as powerful as observing ourselves as we are in the present moment. (The Wisdom of the Enneagram)

So then, both models understand that awareness is a critical element to personal development. Wilber refers to bringing that which is unconscious from the past into consciousness to fully see and address it, while Riso and Hudson are using awareness as a present-moment tool for addressing current behavior and intent.

Importantly, Wilber writes of us using awareness to see our distorted facets of experience as “objects” – meaning that we recognize that they are not us. We can differentiate ourselves from our experiences, as Riso and Hudson describe here:

If we are able to stay with these impressions, our awareness will continue to expand…if we stay present to our discomfort, we will also feel something else arising…This “something” feels compassionate and strong, patient and wise, indomitable, and of great value. This something is who we actually are.

An Integral Enneagram?

“Traditional” medicine was the only form of medicine for millennia. As “modern” methods of science took hold, the West adopted empirically based medicine almost exclusively. Now the pendulum has swung more to the center, and we have what’s being called “integrative medicine,” the best of both worlds.

So it has been with the history of consciousness development. First came the subjective interior experience, then the focus shifted to the “modern,” objective, external. Now there is an attempt to reconcile all quadrants, with the Enneagram as part of it. Wilber says:

That “all-quadrant” approach is the first step to a truly integral model. The second step adds an “all-level” approach, which investigates the stages of development of first-, second- and third-person consciousness … The result is an “all-level, all-quadrant” approach to integral studies … When it comes to the individual, the result is integral psychology, integral therapy, and integral transformative practice.

The Enneagram already resides within the all-quadrant, all-level (AQAL) approach. First, the Instinctual Variants map to it well. The upper left “I” of Self-Preservation, the lower left “We” of Social and the outward-focused right-side It and Its of the Sexual instinct. Second, Wilber’s approach and the Enneagram both take a multi-level approach to human consciousness.

In addition, Wilber’s AQAL model seeks to marry ancient wisdom with modern psychology, as does the Enneagram. For both, this marriage is not about self-actualization alone, though that is an honorable and worthwhile goal. Rather, both espouse a larger vision of cultural and even world-wide transformation.

“The general idea of integral practice is clear enough: Exercise body, mind, soul, and spirit in self, culture, and nature” (Wilber). This practice moves beyond the transformation of self to societal transformation. Likewise, Riso and Hudson discuss how the Enneagram accelerates awakening and could have far-reaching effects so that the history of the world would undoubtedly change if even just a few hundred people were to live fully conscious lives (Wisdom). Their “Stages of the Work” poem makes it clear: “If we were transformed, the world would be transformed.”

This underscores the importance of these models in individual and large-scale transformation by helping people think more holistically – not just about themselves but about themselves as holons (things that are whole in themselves) within larger holons of local and global communities. Each model, in its own way, describes the human condition and ways to transcend average levels of consciousness – Integral Psychology using a 10,000-foot view and a brief treatment of each “ring” of the Great Nest and the Enneagram using a deep, comprehensive assessment of human behavior.

Thus, the Enneagram fleshes out the individual personality component of transformation and Integral Psychology provides a broader context for it. Both models have a great deal to offer those on the path of personal and transpersonal development.

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