Preserving the Transmission and Spiritual Context of the Enneagram

by | Dec 12, 2011 | Enneagram Articles

Letter to the editor of Gnosis Magazine, 1996
by Eli Jaxon-Bear

I was very interested to read your interview with Claudio by Om and one of his students. While I strongly support Claudio’s defense of the Enneagram and agree with his assessment of the shallow, arrogant, ignorant way the Enneagram is mainly taught and misused, I also have a few central points of disagreement.

Oscar and Claudio are quite adamant about preserving the transmission and the spiritual context of the work and with this I strongly concur. How that spiritual transmission is best supported is the issue. In my experience any tool that arises in the service of liberation is useful and any tool that arises from an ego-centered desire to get better is ultimately in service of its master. And mysteriously, as in the case of Hui Neng, the woodcutter who spontaneously woke up to become founder of the Sudden School in China, or Ramana Maharshi who worshiped the mountain Arunachala as his beloved Lord, there is no telling who the Beloved chooses or what form the Teacher may take. It is often the least expected who are chosen.

The interview neglects to mention that Claudio broke with Oscar very early on, and took the Enneagram with him, thus starting a tradition within the Enneagram community. Om, who has a very deep understanding of the Enneagram, and who claims me as his Enneagram teacher, never began the teacher training that I require before sending someone out with the transmission. Is this betrayal or the mysterious workings of the unknown? Who can say? It is certainly in the outlaw tradition recognized by true Sufis and followed by Claudio. What can be said for any teacher or lineage, is that we will see the fruits. I support everyone, whether authorized or not, whose life is dedicated to the liberation of all beings. It seems clear humans are not in control of this divine play.

The first central mistake that I believe Claudio made, and continues to make, actually supported the corruption of the Enneagram transmission. Claudio introduces the idea that the Enneagram is describing personality. This unfortunate error makes the teaching inherently more shallow and more open to misinterpretation. In fact, the Enneagram is describing character fixation. It is quite obvious that the same character fixation can manifest as a wide variety of personalities. Character fixation is the masking and imitating of true character or essence. By assuming the work to be at the level of personality the crucial point is missed and pointless work follows. The true gift of the Enneagram is not about transformation, nor mystical states, nor ego reduction, nor working on the personality, but rather the end of the false identification as a limited entity.

The Enneagram of Character Fixation describes the mysterious drama where Immortal Consciousness has crystallized into the subtle form called the “knot of ego.” This knot is the mistaken identification of Consciousness with form. Ramana Maharshi once said that this knot of ego is the root of all suffering, as can be seen since it is the “I” who suffers, and this “I” should be destroyed by any means. When this false “I” is discovered to be, in reality, nonexistent, the personality manifestation continues and is not a problem. By focusing on personality, the issue becomes clouded and leads to the endless work of refining stimulus response patterns while missing the root of the problem. Thus the Character Fixation working on personality is like the fox guarding the hen house.

I have not yet seen the fruits of Oscar’s or Claudio’s work leading to final liberation. I hope that it does, and look forward to those results. However, I believe that working with the “antidotes” to the “lower emotions,” as Claudio mentions in the interview, is going about the real work of waking up from a perspective of postponement. The antidotes cannot be “worked with” because the one working with them is the problem! For example, the antidote for the pride of the Two Fixation is humility. Humility is not something you can work with. If you do, it will only promote false humility based on some inflated idea of deflation. Humiliation in the context of the willingness to unmask latent subconscious identification does the work without any effort on the part of either teacher or student. Life itself provides the opportunity for pride to be exposed through humiliation. Since it is the Supreme Intelligence that is calling the soul home, is It not capable of arranging the tests of humiliation?

In my own work with the Enneagram, I am deeply grateful for all teachers that I have come in contact with, yet I credit Grace with all the more recent discoveries. The insights are much too profound to be owned.

In my experience there are two key ingredients in the elimination of mistaken identification: First is the desire to be free. If the desire for true freedom is not fully present, then the work cannot lead to ultimate fulfillment. Here again, the holy ideas, in my experience, show up as nuanced expressions of the one true desire. The Enneagram can be an incomparable gift for seeing how this one true desire for freedom gets sold out and compromised along the way. It is very useful to see how the holy idea gets incorporated into the ego structure in defense of ego. In this way the Enneagram is unsurpassed for the beginning examination of one’s present condition.

A full burning desire for freedom in itself is enough. If it is a true desire it naturally leads to a complete willingness to face whatever may arise. Then the crucial ingredient of the psychocatalyst can do its work. The greatest gift that has been given is the discovery that it is possible to use the most universally effective psychocatalyst with all fixations. The psychocatalyst that is the universal solvent is Silence. With a silent mind the work unfolds naturally with no doing. Silence is not a state or an idea but the ever-present reality that all states, ideas and concepts arise from. The great problem with “the work” from Gurdjieff to the present is that it is the belief in the reality of the one who is working that is the problem. As long as there is someone doing something then the subject/object duality is the inherent structure of separation and suffering.

Thus I would say that Oscar and Claudio have unwittingly given the world a great gift. Shorn of the prescriptions and practices that encumber the mind in endless postponement, the raw possibility of the Enneagram can be in service of the Silent Tradition. The Silent Tradition is the end of practice and the end of mind. It is what Zen, Chan, Dzogchen and Advaita Vedanta point to. The Enneagram in service of self-inquiry is the wisdom mirror for Consciousness to see itself and its false identification. I am forever grateful for all brothers, sisters, teachers, students, guides and gurus that serve this awakening.

It is time to look around and tell the truth. A surrender of mind to Silence is the quickest remedy. The Enneagram is the best mirror for seeing ever more subtle layers of latent subconscious identification that may arise. May all Beings awaken.


“When you can recognize who you are not, then there is a possibility to wake up and discover who you really are.”