We, the authors of Nine Sapiens, have long sat on the wall that divides the world of the Enneagram and that of scientific research, without deciding to jump to either side.
We are licensed psychologists, with postgraduate degrees in mental health and organizational behavior, linked to the academic world for a long time and with more than 25 years of experience using different personality models.
We perceive the Enneagram as a powerful model, we feel portrayed by the descriptions it offers, and as psychologists, we have used it both to predict behavior and to guide the development of our clients. It has a “taste of truth” for us.
That said, our position is highly critical of the status quo, both of “scientific” psychology and its prevailing models, and of many of the current approaches and debates that we witness in the Enneagram world.
With respect to the Enneagram, we view the growing proliferation of variants and hyper detailed descriptions with great skepticism. They seem to us unlikely, overly deterministic, and poorly founded.
Nor do we like the “fanaticism” that we observe in some of its defenders, who pose it as a “revealed truth”, beyond any need for verification.
We believe that the only way the Enneagram will be able to consolidate its potential and contribution is by voluntarily submitting itself to the rigors of the scientific method. Only in this way will it be able to establish its credibility, testing the validity and veracity of its different elements, and “purifying”, integrating, and clarifying the model. Needless to say, the Enneagram would gain a lot if it drank from the fountain of behavioral biology. It could prove to be a fortifying, and why not, transforming drink.
Perhaps even more important: those who study the Enneagram to understand their own personality and to advance in the path of their own development, will obtain a more solid body of knowledge and a more realistic understanding of themselves and of the levers that can be used to achieve greater psychological well-being, instead of remaining confused in a Byzantine network of concepts that, at the end of the day, will be of little help.
With the same strength, we reject the “dogmatism” that exists within the scientific community, which impedes any dialogue with other sources of knowledge or with traditions that come from outside their own, closed kingdom.
We do not agree with the positivist reductionism that encourages factorial theories, nor with the relativism of postmodern approaches, which state that each individual is unique, unfathomable, unpredictable and inexplicable.
And above all, we believe that the “scientific” models of personality need to be more self-critical of the degree of subjectivity that each of them has. “Human trace” can be clearly detected in the many subtle individual decisions which shape, name, define and describe each of their constructs.
If the scientific community manages to break through its prejudices, it could benefit from a model that it would come to recognize as the valuable product of centuries of observation of human nature, and the genius intuition that shaped it, incorporating vast knowledge of modern psychology into its design.
Because ultimately, neither the social sciences are as exact as they would like to be, nor did the Enneagram emerge so far removed from science, as is sometimes claimed.
We don’t want to jump to either side of the wall. What we want is for the wall itself to become permeable.