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transform (v.)

mid-14c., “change the form of” (transitive), from Old French transformer (14c.), from Latin transformare “change in shape, metamorphose,” from trans- “across” + formare “to form”. Accessed August 26, 2018

To transform is to “go across” the forms – to take on a new way of being. This is never something we can accomplish on our own – transformation is a gift that we can only invite, never command. Our only power is to surrender to it or refuse.

To speak of our transformation is a way of saying that we are growing soul. We begin rooted in our earthly ways, described by the Enneagram as fixations, passions, and instincts. These ways are necessary for us to begin our journey, but the egoic structures that serve us in our youth break down in later life. They allow us to make our way in this world, but they cannot take us beyond to the world of spirit. If we want to take anything with us on that journey, we need to prepare for and invite transformation. This never ends; it is the work of a lifetime.

Symbols of Transformation

Because transformation is beyond words and even our actions, we need symbols to begin to approach it. A symbol that I have found personally helpful is a rock I picked up during an exercise at a retreat. The exercise required us to choose from an array of mostly smooth stones scattered on the carpet of the meeting room we were using. I almost chose a nice, smooth, rose-coloured stone, but for some reason, I was instead drawn to a shapeless, sharp-edged rock.

Ammonite Fossil

When I turned it over, I discovered a fossil of an ammonite, an ancient sea creature with a spiral-shaped shell. The spiral shape of the fossil reminds me of the continual inward and outward motion of transformation. The emergence of its form from shapeless rock prompts me to remember my emergence from sometimes unpromising material, an emergence which is not of my own doing.

Ammonite Fossil

The Spiritual Journey As Seen Through The Enneagram

The Enneagram is also a symbol of spiritual transformation. The Enneagram has rich symbology, showing the relationship of different manifestations of personal and cosmic energies. These connections can be discerned in various ways: by following the “Inner Flow”, the path of connecting lines  within the symbol(1-4-2-8-5-7 and 9-6-3), by the use of three “Harmony Triads” (1-4-7, 2-5-8, and 3-6-9) or by following the perimeter of the circle from points 1 to 9.

The Inner Flow is described in many of the popular books on the Enneagram, often oversimplified in terms of stress point and security point for each type. It can also be described in terms of foundational numbers (3-6-9) and processing numbers (1-4-2-8-5-7). I’ll leave that for another post.

Enneagram showing Inner FlowThe Harmony Triads are well-described by Christopher Heuertz in The Sacred Enneagram. I won’t elaborate any further right now.

Enneagram Harmony Triads

The path around the circle of the Enneagram symbolizes the spiritual journey of transformation. This journey and your particular Enneagram “type” are not directly related ; all of us must pass through and experience all points on the Enneagram when we undertake this journey. Your Enneagram personality type is just a set of ego functions that you have developed to cope in the world. It will affect the way you approach the journey of spiritual transformation, but each step of the journey has its own sets of descriptions that draw on the Enneagram symbol.

Enneagram Symbol with Four Clockwise Arrows around Perimeter

A Journey of Transformation

With the Enneagram as a template, what would a journey of transformation around the circle look like?

ONE holds the starting or initiating energy of a process. There is a nagging sense of something “off” or “not-quite-right”. Or a new idea sparks your attention. There is a reason to move from where you are; this gives the initial push or pull to start the next phase of growth or begin a new project. This is a place of excitement and optimism.

At TWO, you must assess your needs and set priorities. What is required for this quest,  in terms of energy, material, skill, and effort? What do you personally need to be healthy and focused throughout the implementation of the new change?

At THREE you remember your dreams, draw on or acquire skills, and create strategies to move forward. This is a place of great creativity. Movement at THREE often requires an external shock – a job loss, divorce, or death, or just some right word said at the right time.

At FOUR, you put your own stamp on the project; what makes it unique? You may encounter difficulties or opposition, question your own motives or the forces that started you on this quest. It is important to own all aspects of your experience, positive and negative, and learn from what you encounter. This is a common place where new projects abort; the temptation is to give up and wait for something else to spark your interest. If you do this, you can get stuck in an endless loop from ONE through FOUR and back to ONE. To get beyond this involves crossing “the Void” or “the Existential Hole”, the empty space on the Enneagram symbol between FOUR and FIVE. This is the point of unknowing – the dark night of the soul.

Enneagram showing Personal, Impersonal, and Transpersonal Spaces

Until this point, the change process has been largely personal, your own endeavour, but now other people enter the mix. FIVE is the first place where you encounter others in your journey. People whose personality type is FIVE can exhibit a difficulty engaging with others, but in the spiritual journey this is the place of companionship. (Both are different approaches to the same question: How do I meet the other?) At FIVE, you engage with and listen to others and draw on them to continue your project. The temptation is to go it alone when you encounter resistance from others or even just a difference of opinion. This is a mistake. Being open to the voice of others, especially oppositional others, will give you valuable guidance.

At SIX, on the other hand, you must take responsibility for your own experience. Listen to others, but give weight to what you know to be true. Believe in your own inner authority. Give and receive support within your community. Allies will work with you to advance the new aims. At SIX, an internal shock, some psychological or spiritual crisis, may propel you forward. SIX is also the place of contemplation, where your higher thinking centre is awakened.

At SEVEN, the place of hierarchy, you seek to establish your own place in your new situation. Rather than just chasing after any old thing that catches your attention, you are able to discriminate and place goals and actions in order of importance. Be present to the new environment. What is your true place where you can be most effective?

At EIGHT, you try to make a difference in the new situation within your own understanding of your culture, conduct, ethics, and morals. What is the right thing to do? How do the old standards still apply? What new standards must come into being? Be open to the new and draw on what you already know. You exercise your faculty of Will — the freedom to choose and the power to act — to propel you forward into the new situation.

At NINE, the place of right action, you adapt to a new rhythm that allows you to contribute from where you are, as you are, with the resources you have. When you stop what you are doing and honestly listen, you will know what to do and action flows as the obvious choice. The essential question at NINE is, “Will you or won’t you do this work that is set before you?” There is a sense of completion that lasts long enough for the change to become the new normal.

Of course, this is never static. Inevitably, a new push or pull will arise; the Enneagram is constantly in motion. Upon reaching NINE, you can be sure that a new initiating force at ONE will send you for another spin around the circle. Your free choice is whether or not to accept this invitation.

Heuristic Cycles

If we learn from our journey around the circle and accept the invitation to continued growth, the circle becomes a spiral, with each turn advancing us along our spiritual journey. This path is also called a heuristic cycle, meaning a cycle which can help us to learn from past experience. (The word “heuristic” is related to the word “eureka”, which means “I’ve found it”.)

The spiral from ONE to NINE sometimes seems to have a very fine pitch; a few times around doesn’t feel like it gets you much further along.

At every level, there is a choice to continue or not. Give it time and stick with it. After a while, progress is visible. And of course, even the desire to change is itself a manifestation of grace.

Virtues: Transformed Energy

With continued work with the spiritual journey around of the Enneagram, you will eventually find that you begin to receive the transformative energy in your grounded soul. That is to say, your personality, your ego, your “Enneagram type”, will begin to transform and take its rightful place in your being, as a functioning part of who you are, not as the part that thinks of itself as the whole show. It is then that the virtues of the Enneagram begin to manifest in you and lead you to your best way of being of service to the world.

Enneagram of Virtues