The enneagram is an intriguing symbol. It was introduced to the world by George Gurdjieff in the 1920’s. Since then, it has rippled throughout the world in various ways. The most detailed account of Gurdjieff’s description is found in In Search of the Miraculous by P.D. Ouspenky.
Gurdjieff never mentions the enneagram in his own writings. He alludes to it, but it is never approached directly the way it is approached in the writings of his followers. These articles are going to approach the symbol from the point of view of his followers. I am not going to dive into the works of George Gurdjieff himself here.
In this article we are going to look at the main parts of the enneagram and what they represent
The circle represents a complete octave. In essence ANYTHING that is, is an octave. A whole thing comprised of discreet parts is an octave. The circle could represent an event, a person, a period of time.
Levels of scale
Every octave is comprised of three separate worlds that are each individual unto themselves but could not exist without the others. Each of these parts of the octave are themselves octaves in their own right.
All retail and service stores need a back of the house or storeroom, a sales floor to display the products on, and a service department to sell the product.
In a restaurant
there’s a kitchen staff, a dining room staff, and then a management staff
In the enneagram, and in the philosophers Stone, these three separate worlds are depicted by the addition of a triangle to the circle.
3-The Law of Three or the philosopher stone
The law of Three should seem familiar to just about everybody. The concept of the Trinity is buried in nearly every religion on Earth. Theology aside, humanity appears to have a tendency to break things down into three. Aristotle wasn’t the first but his observations in Rhetoric, brought the concept of the law of three out of the sphere of speculation and stated that it’s a human condition or a function of nature.
The Law of Three assumes that ALL things are composed of three separate but inter-related worlds. The Law of Three resting inside of the octave divides our octave into three separate worlds. These worlds define the form of the thing the symbol is about.
Allow me to make a few examples here that can be researched or observed yourself. Let’s dip our toe into Gurdjieff’s take on the psyche.
Gurdjieffs Three Minds
Consider all of our thoughts as a whole octave and separate them into three very different types of thoughts. Each kind of thought completely independent of the other two and yet it would require all three of them to create an entire thought process.
In this categorization of thoughts, the thoughts are delineated as thinking, moving, and emotional.
Thinking thoughts - are the thoughts we use to reason, imagine, think, and feel with. Thinking thoughts are the thoughts that we typically label as "thinking"
Moving thoughts - are thoughts that are by and large mechanical in nature. There are moving thoughts that are learned thoughts that have evolved from emotion and thinking, things like habits and political and religious beliefs and other cultural programing. There are also moving thoughts that bubble down from the emotional thoughts, think of emotions we create such as jealousy, embarrassment, prejudice.
Emotional thoughts - are the basic building blocks of thoughts. They tend to be very simple. But very powerful thought complexes. Love and religious ecstasies depression and hatred are typically expressions of these thoughts.
A Little Essay
Each world within the octave is assigned: introduction, body, and conclusion.
Each world is its own separate part, but it really cannot exist without the other two. Any two of these worlds are not comprised of enough stuff to complete the whole essay. An octave requires each of its three parts to be communicate with one another in some way to complete itself. In an essay it is the subject matter that binds the three parts together.
An octave can be separated into three in many different ways. If our octave described a building for instance. We can describe our building by each floor; first, second, and third. We can describe our building by occupancy; tenants, maintenance, and property management. We could separate it by businesses type; manufacturing, retailing and sales.
An octave describes a living thing, not just a thing. A building may just be a bunch of cement, but it has a life. Just ask an architect or an engineer who repairs or builds such structures and maintains them. They will tell you a building breaths and grows and shrinks. They are not the most conscious thing around, but a building has a life.
As soon as we put the Law of Three inside the octave we are talking about something that is alive. A really good story will drag a person into the story itself, the story takes on a life of its own. We become enthralled in the story and identify with things that are in the story. Usually this does not happen. Usually, we read a story or watch a movie and we are always aware we are reading or watching, we are not drawn in. The writing is not alive. Most stories fail to fit in to the basic structure of storytelling. In literature there is actually a device referred to as the Rule of Three, in addition to the basic structure of beginning, middle, and end
The triangle and the circle together in their most basic sense describe the laws of causality.
Causality is the laws of cause and effect. In the theory of cause and effect there should be an unending series of causes and effects that go from this moment back to the beginning of everything. A single cause that set all into motion, all the way back to our big bang.
A symbol like the yin yang explains cause and effect eloquently. The cause and effect in this manner is an endless repetition. By adding the third force we can describe endless changes.
Each of the points on the triangle represents a shock that takes place in relationship to that which we are observing. The most fundamental aspects of each shock is whether it is automatic or intentional. We typically assign a yin yang, or positive negative sign to each point, and the zero value to the initiating point
For something to happen it has to happen somewhere. After something happens somewhere it is only a matter of time before the next thing happens afterwards. By applying specific events to parts of our triangle the entire symbol now reflects space and time.
The points of the triangle represent events that are happening. The circle coneting the points indicates the series of events. With these two concepts combined our octave can now be seen as being in motion. A diagram of a living thing going through the changes the events will bring about.
The octave is now a spiral that is ascending or descending. Our octave does not end at the exact point that it started. as the image above shows, it smore like a spiral. A new octave will begin and continue this line, or a new octave will start at a different point. This can go on forever as the octave receives new shocks from the events at 3,6, and 9. In a quite literal way the symbol can now represent a living thing. This is such an important thing to understand about the philosopher stone in its most basic sense. The philosopher stone is always rotating. It is grinding away in perfect pace with the life it was drawn to represent. The law of three shows us the structure of something as it interacts and evolves in space and time.
The law of Seven
The six-pointed figure that weaves between the philosopher stone is the Law of Seven. The figure is properly read by following the arrows, 142857.
This figure shows us the character of the octave. While the law of three shows us the structure of the octave the law of seven depicts the relationships between those three parts. These are like lines of communication between the three worlds within the octave, that need to be open and functioning properly to allow the octave to unfold and evolve fully.
To get a grip on this we’re going to look at how we think. Let’s see if we can link up 142857 inside of the octaves 3,6, and 9.
Cross Communication Between Worlds
Let’s take our octave and separate it into worlds one two and three, by creating the philosopher’s Stone. And then we set our 142857 shape over that. And as we draw in that shape think of it as communication from one world to the next.
It shows us that there isn’t really free communication between all three worlds. 142 are connected on one side 857 are connected on the other. The only way world’s A and C can communicate is by sending messages to B and hoping it passes through. The connection from 2 to 8 and 7 to 1 cross each other. They go from such a high level to such a low level and they cross lines so that the information does not come through well.
Law of Tenfoldness
There is a knack to learning to see the law of one, the law of three, and the law of seven at the same time. These three things combined into the symbol is much like an artist using foreground midground and background in their painting. Standing too close or too far away makes one of those areas stand out. But by finding the proper position all three blend together into a homogeneous whole that expresses the concept.
Learning the mechanics of the symbol is not as complicated as mastering and understanding of the thing one is trying to represent with the symbol. That is to say if you don’t understand the thing that you’re trying to describe with your enneagram, you won’t be able to do it. Someone who is better or has more understanding of the subject matter will be able put it in the enneagram in a more masterful way.
If this symbol was used for nothing more than to gauge ones understanding of the subject at hand. Then this would still be a very powerful tool. There’s no shortage of people who think they know something, who if they just tried to plug what they know into the symbol would quickly discover they only know half of what they thought they knew.