top of page

Where did the Enneagram come from?

Where did the Enneagram come from? There are three names you'll hear over and over again when it comes to the question of "Who created the enneagram?" But I'd like to introduce a fourth name...the often forgotten, overlooked, or disputed founder of the Enneagram. Ready to find out who I'm talking about? Let's get into it!


So you want to know where the enneagram came from…join the party! It’s the origins of the enneagram are nothing short of a hotly debated mystery.

Did a witch draw it on the floor with virgin's blood? Did desert monks have a mystical revelation after hours of prayer in the blistering sun? Or did some wicked smaht psychologists just merge a bunch of parallel theories?

Well, on this enneagram version of two truths and a lie, I'll tell you what no one else seems to be talking about for some reason. And that's the true origin of the Enneagram.

The Big Three

There are three names you'll hear over and over again when it comes to the origins of the Enneagram.

  • George Gurdjieff

  • Oscar Ichazo

  • and Claudio Naranjo

Crafty George

Now, George get's the credit for introducing the shape of the Enneagram in 1916.

But ole George was a bit of an interesting character. I don't want to call him shady, but he never explained where he learned about the enneagram and that gave him a reputation as a bit of a gypsy who always had some secret knowledge to sell you. George grew up near the boarder of what is now Armenia and Georgia. Should be easy to remember - George from Georgia - and that's a really important clue to finding the true origins of the Enneagram. But more on that later.

Oscar Ichazo

After George came Oscar in the 1950s. Oscar was a brilliant dude who really built the 9 Enneagram personality types into what they are today. He called them "ego fixations" because he felt that our personality is basically a reflection of what our ego can't stop thinking about.

Claudio Naranjo

After Oscar, came Claudio in the 1970’s. Claudio actually started off as a student of Oscar's, but Claudio took his training as a psychologist and used it the expand the Enneagram to a new level. And that's the beautiful thing about the Enneagram: it's a complex system that has defined rules and categories, but it remains open to absorbing new science, new methods, or new information from a wide array of scientific or spiritual sources. So many other personality assessments die off over time because they're too rigid or based on outdated information. But the Enneagram keeps integrating ancient truth with modern breakthroughs.

That's the holy trinity of Enneagram founders as they're known today: Claudio, Oscar, and old, crafty George.

But I want to add one more name to the list that few others seem to be talking about…

The Missing Fourth

Evagrius Ponticus lived around 350 AD and was one of those desert monks I jokingly mentioned at the start of this post. He lived in a hermitage in Northwest Egypt and wrote some pretty profound stuff that made him famous in Eastern Orthodox Christian circles, which is why you've probably never heard of him.

Evagrius Ponticus

Ponticus was heavily influenced by two men:

  1. A theologian named Origen. You've probably never heard of Origen unless you're a seminary nerd like me, but you definitely know Pythagoras thanks to your high school geometry class. Origen was famously persecuted for saying that we shouldn't read scripture literally. He taught that it was wiser to read scripture metaphorically or allegorically so we could expand the meaning of the text to a broader truth. And Ponticus agreed with this.

  2. A philosopher named Pythagoras. Pythagoras believed that numbers have a spiritual meaning. He thought it wasn't just math—it's the blueprint of all creation. Ponticus agreed.

So Ponticus took a metaphorical reading of scripture from Origen and a belief in numerology from Pythagoras, and started creating a system of eight virtues that were tied to eight vices and said that all people identified with one primary virtue and one primary vice. This was based on a VERY metaphorical interpretation of Matthew 12:43-45:

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” (NIV)

Ponticus also took the number 153 from the book of John when Jesus miraculously helps the disciples catch 153 fish. He used the number 1-5-3 to start drawing up a combination of geometric figures. I know this stuff may sound crazy but there's so much mathematical support behind what he did that it blows my mind.

Ultimately, he used the numbers 1,5, and 3 to come up with a shape that contained a circle, a square and a triangle. So he had eight vices and virtues loosely connected to this geometric figure that was a combination of three shapes. Anyone who can see the enneagram shape in their head right now can see where I'm going with this.

Now all of that was an unfinished, disconnected theory when he died around 400 AD.

Doesn't seem like much, right?

But it's interesting...eight conditions of the soul and a combination of three geometric shapes from one of the most brilliant spiritual influencers of his day.

Sounds a little enneagram-ish, doesn't it? (Especially when compared to the final product of 9 personality types contained in three geometric shapes).

A Hometown Hero

It might be a stretch to think that some unfinished work in 400 AD made it all the way to George from Georgia in the 1900’s…except for the fact that the name “Ponticus” comes from his hometown in the Kingdom of Pontus, which is the area shared by modern day Armenia and Georgia. So ole George grew up in the region where Ponticus was celebrated not only as a hometown hero but as a venerated saint of the Eastern Orthodox Church!

It would have been impossible for George to not know the details of Ponticus's work, especially given the fact that he trained to be a Russian Orthodox Priest before he hit the road seeking fame and fortune throughout Western Europe.

So there ya have it! One BIG clue as to where the Enneagram originated.

Final Thoughts on Loose Connections

I know some scholars consider this to be a sketchy connection at best, but I think George is a sketchy guy at best, so what the hell? Why not make some educated assumptions since the only other option is a total mystery?

But hey, that's just my take.

Hopefully, I've peaked your interest and somewhat diminished any fear you might have that the Enneagram has demonic roots.

If you're looking for more scholarly information about the origins of the Enneagram I recommend reading anything by Riso and Hudson.

178 views0 comments


bottom of page