As I prepare for teaching the Enneagram course this week, I revisit the work of Helen Palmer, one of the most enjoyable teachers of the Enneagram tradition. The Enneagram personality types were developed, says Palmer, to answer the primary religious question: what separates us from the sacred?
The answer she gives feels very Unitarian. We are born out of a tradition that believes that we can directly experience the sacred in many ways. The Unitarian heresy in the United States started with the idea that can experience God without having to believe in a specific creed or profession of faith. We can experience the sacred without any supernatural entities at all – some of us feel the divinity in nature without any effort, and some of us know that the relationships we create with other people are sacred and holy. The list of how we can experience spirituality is endless yet reveals one thing: our experience alone can define the sacred.
Helen Palmer’s answer as to what separates us from the sacred is one reflected from the desert monks who developed the Enneagram in the 4th century: ourselves. If our Unitarian tradition says that we need nothing but our own faculties to experience the sacred, then it makes sense that the only thing that prevents our connection to the sacred is our own shortcomings. Our insecurities, ignorance, assumptions, prejudices, and vice prevent us from connecting to what is truly meaningful, worthy, and holy in our lives.
To be clear – people are not born in sin or are naturally sinful. People are basically good. Instead, I think everyone is born to grow and develop, the same way seedlings transform earth, sun, air, and water to build themselves up towards the skies. We belong to a religion to transform, because our natural state is to progress.
The Enneagram system of personality offers a way to find out where we can develop so we can
connect to the sacred. It also helps us connect to each other, because it helps us see what is blocking us from a shared reality.
I hope you’ll be able to join us for the Enneagram class starting this Sunday at 11:20am – bring a sack lunch!