Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Enneagram as a Lenten Exercise?

The Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina Newsletter recently arrived, and it contained the following announcement, 

Co-ed Lenten Retreat to study the Enneagram at St. Martin's, Columbia   
...The retreat will use Richard Rohr's DVD that examines each aspect of the Enneagram, an ancient spiritual device that allows you to learn more about yourself and others based on specific personality tendencies and characteristics. Sessions will be held from 6 to 9 pm Friday; 9:30 am to 4 pm Saturday; and an optional session from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Dinner will be provided Friday night and a Dutch treat lunch on Saturday (or you may bring your own). 

I headed over to the church's web pages to find out more.

One idea underlying the Enneagram is that people have two important aspects - essence and personality. Each person has a unique "essential self" that can't be reduced to a category or a number. However, the Enneagram describes nine patterns or themes by which people form a personality, and a social persona, to meet the challenges of love and work. Ideally, personality is an effective way to express ourselves in the world. But problems arise when personality covers up the inner self, or our point of view becomes stuck and rigid. 
Please join *** and *** as they show Richard Rohr's DVD. "The Discernment of Spirits," and help you discover your essence, your best self." *** and *** are strong advocates of the Enneagram and can attest to its profound effect on their own spiritual development, especially in forgiving others. 
That just doesn't sound like a Lenten exercise to me. "Ideally personality is an effective way to express ourselves in the world"? Is that a Christian ideal? Whatever happened to putting on the armor of light and testifying to the transforming power of Jesus?  And what about "The Discernment of Spirits"? That sounds a bit occultist to me.

I can guess that this activity is being offered with the approval of the rectoress and staff. After checking out their training, I can see why this is happening.

I posted something about this sort of thing back in 2012 when the EDUSC newsletter promoted a similar activity at Kanuga.  I will reprint a few of my comments here,

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. 

Poor Bishop Pike, he should have been committed before hurting himself.

Something about Episcopalians makes them susceptible to being attracted to these kinds of pop-psychology scams. I believe it has to do with our general lack of Biblical grounding and its resultant weakness of faith in Jesus as the rock of our salvation.

My advice for "committed" pewsitters in Upper South Carolina is to get in touch with your enneagrams, embrace your deficient emptiness, and settle into the plutonic paradox of living in a church that seeks refuge in anything and everything that the Church historically has advised us to avoid.

My advice for those who are not so committed is to run for your lives and have a holy Lent somewhere else.

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