Modern Enneagram Typology History

The Enneagram of Nine Personality Types emerged in the 1960s and is a synthesis of many different spiritual and religious traditions. It draws on universal wisdom and accumulated philosophies from Christian, Buddhist, Islam (especially Sufi) and Jewish (in the Kabbalah) traditions.

The father of the modern approach to the Enneagram was Bolivian born Oscar Ichazo, who like Gurdjieff, was fascinated with uncovering lost knowledge.  With access to a family library of metaphysical and philosophical texts he distilled  his knowledge of  traditional “Divine Attributes” from  Plotinus Enneads  and the Seven Deadly sins along with the  Jewish Kabala- to become the idea of the nine personality types ,during the late 1950’s.

In the 1970, noted Gestalt Psychotherapist, Claudio Naranjo  was developing programmes at the Esalen Institute., Big Sur, California. Claudio Naranjo was introduced to the Enneagram by Ichazo in Arica, Chile as part of a human potential movement.

It was Claudio Naranjo who then introduced the “panels” approach to teaching the Enneagram  in early 1970, as a way of teaching an early version of the Enneagram in Berkley, California. Enthusiasts started spreading the Enneagram  learning into Jesuit retreat houses across North America.

It was during a period at a Jesuit Seminary that Don Richard Riso (1946-2012) came across the early basic material. (this material consists of no more than half a page of description for each type) Don thought he would take a couple of years to look into the Enneagram (as others were also doing around that time)  Don’s Enneagram Development work took Twelve years before  first publication.

Don’s major breakthrough and contribution involved the discovery of the Levels of development in 1977, revealing gradations of growth and deterioration that people actually move through in their lives.

His findings were first published in Personality Types (1987) and then in Understanding the Enneagram (1990)

Russ Hudson joined Don in 1991, initially to assist in developing an Enneagram type questionnaire, which became the RHETI: The Riso Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator.  He also brought his depth of clarity and understanding from being in the New York Gurdjieff Foundation work to a revised version of Personality Types in 1996.

Helen Palmer published her first Enneagram book in 1988, shortly after Don Riso. Helen Palmer worked closely with David Daniels and the key distinctions between the two schools of the Enneagram are in the approach. The Palmer Daniels schools relies more on the use of Panels (sometimes referred to as a Narrative Approach) The Riso-Hudson Insight Approachsm  of the Enneagram Institute  makes greater use of personal enquiry,  clarity on Type  descriptions vs. Instinctual  Variant distinctions, and the different attitudes and behaviours as manifesting through the Levels of  Development.

Further reading “ Origins” Personality Types
by Riso-Hudson

and “Ancient Roots, Modern Insights”
The Wisdom of The Enneagram by Riso-Hudson

Don’s conviction has always been that until the descriptions of the types were fully and accurately worked out, the Enneagram would be of little real use to anyone-and would, in fact, become a source of misinformation and misguided attempts at growth”
(Page 25 WOE)