Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Enneagrams and Episcopalians' Search For Self Awareness

The following notice about an "Enneagram conference" came from the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina Newsletter, and it led me to think about why pop-psychology and Episcopalians tend to go together.
Enneagram conference at Kanuga to offer teacher training, self-discovery October 21-24
Enneagram expert Joe Howell to lead Oct. 21-24 program at WNC retreat center

Clinical psychologist Dr. Joe Howell of Anniston, Ala., will bring his 25 years of Enneagram study to Kanuga Conferences October 21-24 for three days of reflection, transformation and understanding of this ancient spiritual tool of self-discovery.

“The Power to Change: The Enneagram and an Emerging Consciousness” will offer two tracks of study: Enneagram basics and Enneagram for trainers.

For those intrigued by the Enneagram, the basics track will provide an introduction and an opportunity for individual exploration and expression. While paper Enneagram tests and online quizzes show basic personality types and dynamics, Howell will take a deeper, more prayerful stance when teaching.

“The Enneagram is a tool of self-inquiry of the spirit, not of the ego, not of the external personality,” he said. “It’s a spiritual tool to understand how we were … when we were fresh from heaven and what happened to us.”

For those who wish to translate what they have learned into transforming the lives of others, the track for trainers will give practical tools for teaching the Enneagram system on a church or community level. Participation in this track will count toward Enneagram teacher certification.

“There are not adequate numbers of teachers of this spiritual system,” said Howell, a regionally known expert on the Enneagram, which he has studied and taught for more than 25 years. “In fact, the system has lost much of its power in the recent past because it was packaged and reduced to a static psychological personality typing system. It is actually an amazing spiritual transformational tool and can be brought forth only by those who understand the soul of the Enneagram.”

In addition to large and small group discussions, morning yoga and daily worship, the conference will include workshops on dream exploration, the body-mind-spirit connection, using the Enneagram with children, mandalas and meditation.

Affiliated with the Episcopal Church since 1928, Kanuga is a 1,400-acre retreat center near Hendersonville, N.C. Financial aid and discounted rates for commuting Western North Carolina residents are available. For more information, visit or call 828-692-9136.
A little research into the subject of enneagrams left my head spinning, 

It is understandable that Episcopal priests who, in their pastoral roles engage in a lot of counseling of troubled souls, might find themselves looking for help from whatever is popular in the psychology circles of the day.

But is that where we should be looking for answers?

I have, from my mother's collection, an autographed copy "Beyond Anxiety" a 1953 book written by the late Bishop James Pike. It is strong on 50's pop-psychology, and in it I can see hints of the desire to escape from "repression" imposed on us from external forces. This was a harbinger of what was to be the push for freedom from "inhibitions," the sexual liberation movement of the 60's, and the ultimate journey of Bishop Pike into divorce, remarriage, a call for a heresy trial, censure, madness, and death in the desert of the Holy Land.

Madalas, Dreams, and the likes of Bishop Gene Robinson have all been featured at Episcopal camp conferences in the past, and in the Church Publishing Company (they have cleaned up their catalog, but you can still find  things like From "Sin to Amazing Grace: Discovering the Queer Christ" by Patrick S. Cheng) so it seems to me that the further "out there" something is, the more likely an Episcopalian will be found nearby.

For example, you may have missed the SUMMER DREAM & SPIRITUALITY CONFERENCE:
held at Kanuga on May 27– June 1, 2012. Here are some of the workshops:

Dreamscapes: Integrating Sandtray with Dream Work
Spirit Guides in Dreams
Native American Spirituality: Plants & Animals, Health & Sickness, Heavens & the Earth
Just Who is the “I” [Dream Ego] in Our Dreams?
Writing Your Own Book of Life
Hieroglyphic Thinking: The Symbolic and The Real
Taming the Inner Tyrant
Quantum Science: The Mystics got it Right
How Shadow Effects Our Contribution to the Universe and Our Connection to God
Sacred Feminine Oracle
Implications of Tibetan Lucid Dreaming Practices for
Western Dreamers
Body/Soul Integration
Myth and Dreams
The Self and Mandala Motifs in Dreams
Radical Incarnation and Unity Through Self, Symbol and Dream
The Healing Power of Poetry: Using Poetic Forms to Work Through Difficult Times
The Luminous Woman
Issues in Shadow Work
The Future in Quantum Mechanics & Dreams
Your Life Stages as Determined by your Meyers Briggs
Wisdom in your Dreams
Six Magic Questions
What is the Significance of Color in Dreams
Six Principles of Dreamwork
Who are You in The Tarot?
Exploration of Dreams and Prayer
Dream Archetypal Architecture: The Staircase
Starting a Dream Group at your Church
While a certain amount of self reflection can be a good thing, this Episcopal obsession seems to tell me that we Episcopalians must feel that we are missing out on something important in our lives. You will notice that the name of Jesus is missing from all of the spiritual realization false pathways outlined above. Knowledge of the "authentic self" must be what we are being taught as "missing" and the cause of our spiritual emptiness. Such efforts to know the authentic self are things that can misdirect us from what might otherwise be the desire to totally surrender to and to grow in Christ.

As I was reading up on Enneagrams, I came across something from another figure popular in progressive Episcopalian circles that pretty much sums it up,
"You’ve been fearful
of being absorbed in the ground,
or drawn up by the air.
Now, your waterbead lets go
and drops into the ocean,
where it came from.
It no longer has the form it had,
but it’s still water.
The essence is the same.
This giving up is not a repenting.
It’s a deep honoring of yourself."  The Essential Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks (HarperSanFrancisco, 1995) p. 153.
There is nothing to repent after all. Those things you were taught to think of as sinful were just oppressive ideas imposed on you from outside. Let go of all those repressive things. Look to the truth inside. Its all about yourself.

I'll close this reflection with a look at the back cover of James Pike's book, "Beyond Anxiety" to give you an idea about how the 50's attempt to merge Pyschology and Religion had a larger audience than just Episcopalians:

"SELF-UNDERSTANDING will be of invaluable aid to everyone confronted with the pressing problems of today's living."

That may not be exactly what the Rev. Hiltner intended, but if kind of sums up my thoughts on the trajectory and focus of the quest for self awareness, and the dangerous temptation to become more self-centered and less Christ-centered.

I find myself sighing everytime recommendations for programs like these show up in our Diocesan communications.

The sighing must mean that it is time for me to work on my "ennuiagram." 

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