I encountered the Enneagram for the first time in a small one-day workshop almost a decade ago. It was love at first sight. Though it was presented then as a simple personality model that pointed mostly to our pathologies and problems, I could immediately sense that there is a much deeper secret to the Enneagram than was presented here. I even walked over to the instructor and told him that I think there is a great depth to this model that I will attempt to uncover.
I spent the following years studying the Enneagram deeply, and the more I uncovered the more secrets seemed to still be hidden. Eventually I felt confident enough to start teaching the Enneagram as a complete psycho-spiritual program for growth and transformation. Little did I know that I would start an Enneagram revolution in Egypt and the Middle East.
The Enneagram is an ancient symbol of unknown origins. However, in the last few decades it has been enhanced with teachings from modern psychology and ancient wisdom teachings to create the model known as “the Enneagram of personality” which is what we refer to when we talk about the Enneagram. The model describes nine automatic thinking patterns and core emotional reactivities that work as ego defense mechanisms. These are considered as inherent to every human, and one of these patterns dominating our psyche from birth. Depending on how deep you go with the Enneagram, it can be used to understand behavior, drives and motivations, defense strategies, and can help gain more in-depth understanding of universal archetypal patterns, the spiritual core, and the meaning of life.
Since my main goal in teaching the program is spiritual awakening and transformation, I use the model to reveal the hidden maps of the self in numerous consecutive layers: from understanding the personality, to working on the psyche, to spirituality and transformation.
The program covers 180 hours spread over a one-year period. It is currently in its 8th year or ‘journey’, and several hundred students have graduated to this day. The seventh journey in 2020 was conducted entirely online. This encouraged me to adapt the program to be fully online for 2021, and it also gave me the chance to start presenting it in English, where it is attracting an international audience.
Seeking a holistic model of growth and transformation
Since I was using the Enneagram for growth and transformation, I was interested in what the growth journey of each type would look like in practice. Previous efforts had already been published in the Enneagram world that presented pioneering work. For example, Riso and Hudson (1999) had presented the “levels of development” showing the journey of maturity and liberation for each of the nine types, and Ooten and O’Hara (2010) integrated the Enneagram with Beck and Cowen’s (2006) Spiral Dynamics model. Both approaches provided great insight into individual aspects of growth of the types and gave a greater clarity to some developmental facets. Yet, a complete picture of consciousness growth and transformation was missing. I was therefore interested in creating a more holistic model, which became my focus for the following period. I had so many models from psychology, self-development, spirituality, and mysticism that all showed different aspects of the growth journey, but none of them seemed to be all-encompassing. A meta-model was needed.
The AQAL Model
It is during this period that I encountered Ken Wilber’s (2000) Integral Theory. In his work Wilber presents the difference between structural growth and awakening. Structural growth is how we see, perceive, and understand the world around us, while awakening is how we wake up to the different states of consciousness. After much time digesting Wilber’s work, I could finally visualize a three-dimensional model connecting the Enneagram with the Structure-Stages and State-Stages of consciousness. I named this the “Integral Enneagram Framework”.
The Integral Enneagram Framework
The framework, as shown in the figure, is a three-dimensional space that creates two sub-models and a lattice: Stages of the Mind, Stages of the Heart, and ElSherbini Lattice.
“Stages of the Mind (SoM)” integrates the Enneagram with Wilber’s structure-stages, what he calls “growing up”, to create a map of intellectual complexity, cognitive capacity, ego development, and worldview growth. The model maps how each Enneagram type grows along these structure-stages. I use Wilber’s ego-development stages as the backbone for this model, yet I integrate it with information from other developmental models.
“Stages of the Heart (SoH)” integrates the Enneagram with numerous awakening models sourced from Sufi, Western, and far Eastern spiritual teachings and mystical paths. I use the seven Sufi stages of Self as the main backbone for this model. The model shows how each type matures in consciousness from utter fixation in the dualistic world and illusory self, the ego, to awakening to the higher states and realms of consciousness.
Finally, as a by-product of the 3D framework, the ElSherbini Lattice emerged, which explores the relationship between the structure-stages and state-stages. It shows how the stage of heart of an individual creates a capacity for certain stages of mind to emerge. While the Wilber-Combs Lattice studies a very similar relationship but approaches it from the structure-stages side, the ElSherbini Lattice approaches it from the Stages of the Heart side revealing profound new insights.
Building the Models
Since spiritual growth was my initial concern, I started by building the SoH model. It has gone through numerous phases and was presented in several International Enneagram conferences. A few articles on my website blog, www.enneagramegypt.com, show the progress of the work on the SoH. After the initial theoretical research phase, the model was presented and tested on hundreds of my students.
There are 7 stages of development in the SoH model. When these stages are paired with the nine Enneagram types we get 63 different type-stage descriptions. Each type-stage description refers to a unique human psychological structure. The challenge is to try to present a picture of each type at each developmental stage in a concise yet meaningful manner that relates the most common aspects and features of this type-stage, while filtering out individual differences between the research subjects. The model is currently in an advanced state, though continuous research on this topic never ceases.
The SoM model came next, and was more challenging, as describing the Enneagram types in the very primitive stages and the extremely advanced stages is illusive, and it is not easy to find subjects in these stages for validation. It was necessary to refer to the work of developmental psychologists in order to understand these hidden structures. Numerous sources were used, the insights of which go beyond the scope of this article and will be presented in further articles.
The Integral Enneagram Program
By integrating the Enneagram with the Integral model, the Integral Enneagram framework provides a much deeper understanding of both models. Most of all I believe it gives a profound insight into the human psyche, much deeper than can be understood by any of the models alone. I currently present the Framework in an advanced one-year 180-hour program, over three 12-week levels (courses) similar in structure to the Enneagram program yet recommended for advanced students or as a second year of study. The program is currently in its third year, and I provide it online in both Arabic and English.
2021 Conference Presentations
I will be presenting the SoM model at the Integral European Conference (IEC) 2021 coming up on the 19th of May. I will also be presenting an overview of the entire Integral Enneagram Framework at the Global Enneagram Conference which starts July 16th of this year.
In upcoming articles I will give a taste of each model mentioned in this article, and some of the emerging findings.