Love is the energy from which all other Divine energies flow and therefore can be said to be the mother of all being. In many religious teachings, Love is equated with God and is known as the origin of all creative activity. Paul, an apostle of Christ in the first century A.D., authored a monumental description of Love in his first letter to the Christians in Corinth. In this letter is a chapter on Love which is a cornerstone of Christian theology. Yet Paul’s explanation of Love¬† transcends¬† Christian Theology by amplifying its universal power to bring about goodness, wholeness and healing. Such an archetypal concept of the power of Divine Love is fundamental to all major religions and spiritual pathways. Within these first three verses is another important aspect of Paul’s description of Love: nine concepts of Love that are consistent with the nine energies of the Enneagram. This article explicates the first three verses of Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians and illustrates how they correspond to the Enneagram’s nine energies, and to the nine Holy Ideas.

First Corinthians 13: 1-3

1  If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

2  If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries, and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but  do not have love, it profits me nothing. (1)

These first three verses of chapter thirteen, are followed by additional and¬† profound¬† teachings on the nature of Love. These three initial verses however, dramatically demonstrate the power of Love by introducing eight highly-developed spiritual attributes found in humankind. These eight spiritual pinnacles, when counted with Love itself, create nine expressions of the glittering prism of Divine Love. Paul dramatically demonstrates the ultimate power of Love by asserting that these eight pinnacles are virtually worthless without Love. In verse one he states that without Love, a person’s words, regardless of whether they are human or angelic, are but ” a noisy gong or clanging cymbal”,¬† an image comparable to loud discordant sounds. In verse two, he states that, without Love, even if a person has the gift of prophecy, or understands all mysteries and all knowledge, and even if the person has all faith, enough to remove mountains, the person is nothing. And finally in verse three, Paul asserts that without Love, a person’s giving all their possessions to feed the poor, and even surrendering their body to be burned, yield no profit to the person.

Inherent in Paul’s equivocations are implied, yet integral, attributes of Love which are found in the opposite of cacophony (noisy gong or clanging cymbal), in the opposite of being nothing, and in the opposite of gaining no profit.

Therefore the essential spiritual quality of Love (agape) (1) gives a person’s words a spiritually harmonic value, (2) makes a person not “nothing” but being of spiritual substance¬† and (3) yields instead of nothing,¬† the truest of spiritual gain or value, termed in the passage as ” profit “.

According to Paul, it is Love that potentiates the other eight powerful spiritual attributes into becoming their fullest meaning and worth. And it is Love along with the eight spiritual attributes¬† which makes nine and which corresponds to the Enneagram’s nine types. Paul’s assertion that these eight qualities are essentially nothing ( or of no value or profit ) without Love, not only underscores that Love is the essential component of these qualities but that Love animates them into their truest meaning thereby preventing their nothingness and their valuelessness. Love and each of the eight other superlative attributes infused by Love, correspond to the nine basic energies of the Enneagram.

Love is Distorted by the Fall 

The pedagogic structure of the Enneagram reflects not only nine fundamental virtues of humankind, but nine corresponding distortions of those virtues called passions. The passions are analogous to the eight deadly sins plus the preliminary sin of ” love of self ” written about by the Christian dessert father, Evagrius of Pontus, in 375 A.D.¬† In regard to the eight deadly sins he actually first writes about them as ” the deadly thoughts”. Evagrius asserted in his writings, that the first thought of all the deadly thoughts, was the thought of love of self, after which the other eight came. (2). The eight deadly thoughts, added to the primary sin, “love of self “, add up to nine sins, but were later amalgamated into ” The Seven Deadly Sins “, by Pope Gregory the Great in 590 A.D. The eight sins plus one, as first conceived by Evagrius, correspond to the nine passions of the Enneagram and can be viewed as distortions of their corresponding virtues. Distortion of the virtues is said by Sandra Matri to be the result of the loss of contact with essence which occurs during the fall.(3)

The (collective) fall in Judeo-Christian theologies is described as being the result of souls’ attempt to usurp God’s supremacy. The collective fall of humanity is said to be recapitulated in each soul’s (essence’s) loss of contact with its consciousness as it adopts a protective covering called an ego. This ego is composed of personality dimensions including virtues, traps, passions and avoidances, all of which can be healthy or unhealthy depending on the amount of consciousness achieved. Constantly repeated behaviors, thoughts and skewed perceptions of reality called fixations, also part of the ego, are defenses against perceived threats.¬† These fixations if not brought to awareness, compose a false self which can unconsciously be the person’s¬† identification. The false self is a product of essence’s being covered by childhood’s emerging ego designed¬† to protect vulnerabilities and to cope with the uncertain and potentially lethal world in which it finds itself. As a result, essence is covered with one of nine basic egos (types or false selves). In certain understandings of Enneagram theory, the healthy and conscious aspects of the ego are what can become distorted and lead the person into traps causing great suffering. Along with the primary identification with the false self, as the person drifts further into ego’s fixations they forget the Holy Idea of their essence with which they were born.

The essential virtue of Love is what Evargrius asserts is the first quality to be distorted when it is corrupted into ” love of self”. Conversely, Divine¬† Love in its agape connotation, which is the opposite of love of self, would prevent distortion of virtue. Thus the power of Divine Love, when infused into the other virtues, prevents them from being corrupted from being overtaken by the passions, from being empty, neutral or meaningless, and in turn, makes them meaningful, of substance, and of the greatest of spiritual worth. In this New Testament chapter, Love is shown to actively potentiate the Divine, in eight different areas of human activity. The Enneagram’s nine Holy Ideas, all forms of Love, and the essential core of each of the nine basic types of essence, correspond to Paul’s descriptions of Love and to eight spiritual qualities it can infuse. Just as the optical spectrum contains nine different colors of light, they are all forms of light. Analogously, all nine of the Holy Ideas are facets of the one great Unity.(4) . Each Holy Idea illustrates how Love, the one great Unifier, activates and expresses itself in each type.

The crucial point is that in order to end the suffering brought on by ego’s passions, traps and fixations, the person searches for relief found in returning to their almost forgotten essence. In the quest to return to essence, the Holy Idea once re-contacted, enables the way to manifestation of essence itself!¬† It is of note that each of the nine Holy Ideas correlate with Love and its eight manifestations given by Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians. This brings us to the plausible assumption that it is the same wellspring of fundamental universal truth from which Paul draws and which the Enneagram reflects.

The Enneagram’s Three Centers, the Nine Points, and¬†the Holy Idea of Each Type

At the apex of the Enneagram is point Nine flanked by points Eight and One. These three¬† points at the top of the Enneagram ( Point Nine as the central expression of energy with Eight and One on either side as different expressions of that central energy) are where humankind first drops onto earth from heaven in the fall. Called the Gut Center, these are the three points into which Pure Love is forgotten as the ego reacts with RAGE about having fallen and therefore having become limited. The visceral and deeply primal nature of this center can be symbolized by the fire of their anger. This anger is stoked by the ego’s being enraged by the fact it has lost its battle of gaining supremacy over God, has dropped into a body and is therefore limited, confined and restrained. Let us now see how each of the three types of the Gut Center, react to the loss of their Holy Idea. We will also see how each of the Nine Holy Ideas corresponds to the nine descriptions of Love given by Paul.

Type Nine forms an ego fixation built around SELF-NARCOTIZATION. The unhealthy Nine goes to sleep on life and all its constraints, as a reaction to their fall and the rage it produced in them. Pretending they do not matter and that nothing is really of consequence is Nine’s attempt to gain control over their limitations while channeling their rage underground. Discounting their¬† “self ” is how the Nine’s ego’s reacts to the rage of having fallen and having been limited by being in a body. This fixation covers up a very paradoxically self-interested person, who in down-playing their importance uses an ingenious method to minimize the consequences of being humiliated and limited.¬† Yet point Nine carries within it a most precious gift — the Holy Idea of Unconditional Love. This Pure Love, which point Nine forgot during the fall, is the seminal Love out of which the other eight superlative attributes described by Paul are potentiated.¬† When Nines remember this Pure Holy and Unconditional Love, they are affirmed, awakened and can move toward integration and action. It is at this awakening that Nine’s experience the precise antidote for their rage. This is how the Nine turns from self-narcotization to being able to Love most purely.

To the left of point Nine is point Eight which is composed of those who exert power, strength and control over others by using strategic withdrawal. This type of withdrawal is not to maintain a cover, but is an aggressive strategy of war. By removing their presence and support, the Eight’s rage is channeled into domination, power and strength. They use their lust for life and over-powering strength to seize control not only over others, but over their weakness, their limitations and their being confined to a body. Maintaining POWER OVER OTHERS is their ego’s fixation. However Eights carry within them the redemptive Holy Idea of Holy Compassion, a form of Love most specific to them, contact with which was lost in the fall. Re-contacting¬† and implementing this particular Holy Idea, empowers them with a faith so strong, that they can effect powerful results for the world. This is how the Eight can Love most Purely.

Type One moves outward and ascends to the authoritative role of being perfect and right in order to deny and repress the anger. Ones are relentless in trying to correct perceived wrongs, as they search out imperfection, discern the future consequences of certain actions ( as portrayed by the prophets) and set straight the flaws they detect. When these qualities are distorted by compulsive over-perfectionism, extreme rigidity and criticality, and despair over others not adhering to their proclamations, they obscure radically the One’s essential nature. This essential nature is pointed to by their Holy Idea of Holy Growth/Holy Perfection, a form of Love, which when remembered by the One, allows them to understand and accept imperfection as the route to wholeness. As they guide others with their gifts of discernment and prophecy, the One can now Love most purely.

To the Gut Center’s right in descending order is a group of three other points comprising the Heart Center. This center is composed of the three points (Three, Two and Four) that react to the fall not by being enraged as those of the Gut Center, but by feeling unworthy, rejected and therefore essentially unlovable. Proving that they are worthy in order to receive Love, is their reaction to the fall. As the purity of complete love is forgotten, the three points of this center fight the feeling of rejection in three different ways. Yet all three types in the Heart Center implement their affective/ emotional energies to prove their worth and therefore their lovableness.

Point Three is at the core of the Heart Center. Point Three is flanked by Two and Four, and all three points comprise the Heart Center. Point Three deals with being unlovable by being successful in order to win love. They use image, fabrication and accomplishment to defeat their feeling of having been rejected. In their most distorted state, Threes fall victim to the quest of avoiding failure at all costs, and thereby will say and do what is called for to accomplish their goals. Their Holy Idea is Holy Will, a form of Love, which when remembered, instills a return to the over-arching will of God, versus the will of the ego. Their Holy Idea provides the Three a way to relate to, speak with, and succeed for everyone. This Holy Idea provides the Three a purpose with meaning beyond egocentricity into the realm of the greater good. This is how the Three can Love most purely.

Just north of Three in the Heart Center, is point Two who turns outward toward others to deal with being unlovable.¬† By becoming helpful and indispensable, the Two is getting affirmation through service to others. In its distorted form, the Two’s need for praise and adoration can supersede its need to serve. When it remembers its Holy Idea of Holy Grace, a form of Love, the Two can move in the world with pure selfless giving to others, instead of their seductive service designed to manipulate others into loving them. In Holy Grace the Two is a knower of their own needs, is conscious of their self-defeating seduction and their self-involved service. In being a receiver of Holy Grace they can now be in the act of giving that Grace to others.¬† This is how the Two can Love most purely.

To the south of three is point Four who turns inward toward self to deal with being unloveable.  The Four creatively stands out as a method to have a unique appeal. The unhealthy Four envies those they perceive have found happiness and satisfaction. In the unhealthy state, they are always looking for their authentic selves. Also in this state, Fours are perpetually saddened by memories of their tragic past, by a longing to live their unless life, and by not having found the missing part of their life. The riddle of their lives is a mystery, the rumination around which often involves loneliness, delving into the unknown, and a sense of being defective. However, the Four, when through their Holy Idea of Union with God is freed to live through their creative attributes, finds the answers to the mysteries not by solving the mystery but by being in creative space with God. In this powerful transformation, the Four no longer searches alone for solutions to the mystery, but lives in mystery in Holy Intimacy. In this space, Fours find their authenticity which had been there all along. They are then able to draw from the great mystery in order to create within a life of equanimity. This is how the Four can experience being loved and Loving  most purely.

To the Gut Center’s left on the Enneagram, is the center known as the Head Center comprised of point Six as the core, flanked by points Seven and Five. In this center, the ego experiences Fear as a reaction to the fall.¬† Fear is fought by these three points by employing mental coping mechanisms which in the end amount to being illusions. The center is point Six who deals with Fear, in this point’s case the fear of being deviant, castigated, left out etc., by being excessively loyal and by becoming an important member of the group whose leader will hopefully protect them. Sixes search for security in the fearful world, and can never do enough to bring it about for sure. But when the Six remembers the Holy Idea of Holy Trust/ Holy Faith, a form of Love, there is a new-found strength which removes the fear and relaxes the Six into right action in her or his own authority. This is how the Six can Love most purely.

To Six’s north is point Seven who turns outward to deal with Fear (in this point’s case, fear of any kind of pain or deprivation) by seeking more and more pleasure and self-indulgences to cancel out the feeling of deprivation or loss, as well as physical suffering. This avoider of pain is usually led by their actions, ironically, into deeper pain. The Holy Idea of Co-creation, a form of Love, aligns the Seven with the Divine Plan, instead of the ego’s plan of over-indulgence. The Divine plan reveals to the Seven the value found in submitting the Divine rhythm of gain, loss and resolution. The Divine motif necessarily includes suffering, sacrifice and pain. The healthy Seven embraces co-creation as a method to accept all of reality including the party nail parts of it. The preoccupation with and fear of pain is gone to be replaced with surrender to the Holy Plan allowing the Seven to Love most purely.

To the south of Six is point Five who deals with fear (in this point’s case, fear of emptiness, desolation and of being consumed by others) by turning inward to collect and amass knowledge and all kinds of information. Their hoarding includes the collecting of symbols as well as data in all forms,¬† to fill the inner emptiness and to defend against the diminishment by others of their inner life. Their Holy Idea is that of Holy Providence, a form of Love which assures them that all they require will come to them. Once this Holy Idea is remembered, the Five can move away from withdrawal and move in the world by strongly implementing their wisdom. This is how the Five can Love most purely.

How Each of the First Three Verses of First Corinthians, Chapter Thirteen, Correlates with Enneagramic Typology Including the Holy Ideas

….”Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels” correlates to type Three.This phrase depicts the Point Three who speaks in different forms in order to be successful and therefore to be loved. The passion of deceit invades the Three as they can be said to speak out of both sides of their mouths in order to evoke the desired image or result. But when Type Three, in conscious integration, speaks out of its virtue of Truth and its Holy Idea of God’s Holy Will, a spiritual harmonic arises, akin to the tongues of angels. This is the tongue of angels. The integrated Three would also be able to speak in the tongues of men (humans). To speak consciously with both tongues is the Three’s achievement of wholeness and integrity which is a supreme act of lifting of the veil between heaven and earth. Without¬† this Love, channeled through Holy Will and infused into the Three’s language (tongues) the Three’s speech is as meaningless as¬† “a noisy gong and a clanging cymbal”.

….” And have the gift of prophecy”¬† This description most correlates to Type One. This can refer to Type One’s attribute of discernment out of which comes prophecy. In its most healthy and conscious form, the One’s gift of prophecy does not repress anger but channels it into positive energy. This gift of the One does not use its ability to discern for the purpose to criticize, but for guidance of others toward right action and hope. Prophets who are infused with Love also command authority and inspire Growth. (The Holy Idea of Type One is Holy Growth/Holy Perfection.) This Holy Idea enables the Type One as they point the way, to endure with rejoicing and gladness, the persecution and criticism from others. This dynamic is referenced(5) in Type One’s corresponding Beatitude of Christ, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”(6)¬† Without Love even the person with the gift of prophecy is nothing.

” And understand all mysteries”¬† corresponds to a healthy Type Four. The Four defies categorization, remains a conundrum to themselves and to others and who champions creativity. From the muse, from the unknown, from the mystery come their creativity and their work. There seems to be a strong association¬† between Type Four’s search for self-understanding, their gift of intuition and their navigation into mystery.¬† In its most perfected state, the Four’s intuition enables her or him to delve into the mystery, dialogue with it, and understand it. The Four’s Holy Idea of “Holy Union with God” is reflective of the conscious Four’s comfort with the Divine Mystery. The Four’s Holy Idea of Holy Union transcends Four’s faulty coping style of being unique in order to feel lovable. Understanding mystery is to understand that mystery itself is incomprehensible. Who else can better understand all mysteries than the most mysterious of all the Enneagramic energies? With Holy Union, the Four can explore, depict and translate the mysteries of life through their creativity. This is a superlative way Love, channeled through Four’s Union with God, their Holy Origin, saves those who understand all mysteries from being nothing.

..”(And understand) all knowledge” … This can refer to the wisdom and the comprehension of the nature of all knowledge, a well-known gift of integrated Type Five. In understanding knowledge there is an implied knowing of knowledge’s limitations. The integrated Five can no longer rely on knowledge to fill their hunger and thirst.¬† Five’s Holy Idea of Holy Providence is their conscious way to transcend their fear of emptiness and hunger which knowledge was supposed to satisfy.¬† Their¬† Holy Idea transcends the Five above the ego’s desolation, brought about by hoarding of information, its totems and the need to understand all knowledge. When Fives move with the power of their Holy Idea, holy Providence, to integration and consciousness, they strongly influence others. Understanding all knowledge then becomes sharing their¬† knowledge with the world. This is a supreme act of Love, which saves the Five from being nothing.

“…. have all faith”. Here the correlation is to integrated, conscious Type Six whose Holy Idea is Holy Trust/Holy Faith. Being a loyal group member had been found by the conscious Six not to be fail-safe. The cowardice that haunts the Six can collapse them into paranoia and anxiety. He or she may still be scapegoated, or annihilated even if they are loyal. In consciousness however, the Six, in order to move in the world without being dominated by fear, relies on Faith and its parent Holy Love. Faith itself can crumble without Love. The doubt of Thomas, the questioning of Martha, the sinking of Peter into the sea as he walked on water are all examples of faith’s diminishment. Faith even with the best of intention, without Love, is a faith that is inert. But with supreme Love infused into all acts of faith, there is a transcendent, unsinkable faith that has divine energy.¬† Such a faith infused with Love, saves the Six from being nothing.

” (… have all faith), so that I could remove mountains”. Before this phrase there is a comma, found also in the earliest translations, (7) which creates this separate thought: “… so that I could remove mountains “. This thought adds another spiritual pinnacle which emphasizes that there is a faith so great that it empowers one’s ability. This phrase accentuates having not only ” all faith ” but having all faith that¬† ” I could remove mountains”.¬† Thus there is in this superlative ability, a correlation to the integrated Type Eight whose faith is so large that with it, she or he moves strongly in the world, but in a different way than if under their own steam. They with faith, are strong enough to actually change the landscape of things. Earth-changing Faith in God is

the result of the conscious Eight’s Holy Idea of Holy Compassion/Holy Truth — a form of the Love infused. Truth and the compassion this Love creates, move the Eight away from using withdrawal inside a fortress that rules a self-made kingdom and away from using withdrawal of power from others in order to control. Instead of exerting power over others to unleash their rage, the healthy Eight’s compassion puts them in contact with human need and gives them a venue of great service to others. Eights, in conscious compassion, humbly accept their human limitation and become vessels of Love. They become channels for God to work mightily through them because their seismic faith has such Love. This is how Eight’s can Love most purely. This is how Eight’s prevent their becoming nothing.

” ..bestow all my goods to feed the poor”. Here the correspondence is to the integrated Type¬† Two. The Two dealt with the feeling of being unlovable by becoming an indispensable helper who seduces others into dependence upon them…to admire and to laud them… But this didn’t work.¬† Even in being “the source” for those they “helped” was in the end a distortion of the love they actually needed. The virtue of Two is humility. The Holy Idea is Holy Grace which is a form of Love that makes all the difference in the heart of the Two’s giving. In giving one’s all to those who are without (the poor) through the medium of Love, there can be no pride. This is pure giving that a natural giver can do best, when conscious. This is how the Two can Love most purely…and this is what saves the Two from gaining no profit. Instead the Two realizes a spiritual gain: giving with a selfless intention… the most valuable gift of all.

“…give my body to be burned”…. YThis description corresponds to Type Seven.¬† This phrase’s reference to sacrifice inherently involves pain and deprivation. The Seven who faces pain is consciously integrating. The Seven who gives of the body instead of receiving pleasure for it is traveling toward consciousness. The Seven who is not sacrificing their pleasure and their plenty (gluttony) is less able to consciously Love. Seven’s Holy Idea of Holy Co-Creation moves the Seven out of the ego reaction of Fear, (fear of pain and of deprivation) into a state of consciousness that is able to face pain by co-creating with God. The integrated Seven no longer escapes fear of pain through over-indulgence (or by using their sacrifice to bring about a self-indulgent effect) but rather accepts the role of pain in their lives as they live out the Divine motif of birth, death and rebirth. Sacrifice therefore, when done as a co-creator with God, is now a form of Pure Love. This saves the Seven from profiting nothing by sacrificing. With love they have gained what was the truest heart of why they sacrificed — so that others may know Love.

” Love” .. This is the fundamental nature of all, without which the other qualities listed above,¬† would be nothing. Love, and specifically Unconditional Love is the Nine’s Holy Idea, the mother of all the Holy Ideas. The Nine without love is its compulsions. Love is the one quality that births completion and life to the other eight qualities mentioned. This is the love that awakens the Nine from its lethargy and self-narcotization into the activity and energy of making peace, of mediating and of understanding all views of all people. This is the love that disseminates from the gut to the heart and¬† to the head.¬† Paul ends this chapter by saying ” But now faith, hope and love abide these three; but the greatest of these is love”.(8)

In summary, the Apostle Paul in his First Letter to the Christians in Corinth, described the¬† essential power of Love. He did this by illustrating that even the most superlative spiritual qualities are virtually nothing and have no real worth without Love. Paul’s examples demonstrate that it is only Love when infused into spiritual qualities, that creates supreme value to those qualities. Love and the eight examples of human spiritual development that Paul says are nothing without Love, are shown to correspond exactly to the nine energies of the Enneagram and with the nine Holy Ideas, fundamental to the¬† Enneagram. The implications of this correlation, include but are not limited to the assumption that Paul in this monumental writing about Love, went far beyond sectarianism to embrace the same archetypal, universal truth that is also reflected in the Enneagram.


  1. First Corinthians 13:1-3. New American Standard Bible. The Lockman Foundation. 1995, La Habra, California
  1. Harmless, W.; Gitzgerald, R.R. ( 2001) ” The Saphire Light of the Mind”: The Skemmata of Evagrius of Ponticus” Theological Studies 6: 498-529.
  1. Matri, S. (2000) The Spiritual Dimensions of the Enneagram. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher. 30
  1. Almaas A.H.(1998) Facets of Unity. Boston: Shambala Publications, Inc. 10-11
  1. Howell, J.B. (2012) Becoming Conscious: The Enneagram’s Forgotten Passageway. 2nd ed. : Bloomington: Balboa Press. 290-291.
  1. Matthew 5:12 New American Standard Bible. The Lockman Foundation. 1995, La Habra, California.
  1. Nestle-Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th rev.ed., Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012
  1. First Corinthians 13:13 New American Standard Bible. The Lockman Foundation. 1995, La Habra, California

About the author: Joseph Benton Howell Ph.D., a practicing Clinical Psychologist, received his Ph.D. from The University of Virginia, and was a Fellow in Clinical Psychology at Harvard Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry. Also holding a Master of Arts in Religion from Yale Divinity School, he has taught the Enneagram in light of its Spirituality and Psychology, since the 1980’s. Founder of The Institute for Conscious Being, Dr. Howell is author of Becoming Conscious: The Enneagram’s Forgotten Passageway.