Friday, February 5, 2016
The Political Meaning of the Enneagram.
The ancient and basic spiritual dictum, “as above, so below,” means that heaven and earth reflect each other in such a way that what happens in one is analogous to what happens in the other. Jesus expresses this as a hope when he has his disciples pray, “on earth as it is in heaven.” While this made more visual sense to ancient people, I am suggesting that it is more intelligible to post-Modern people if we talk about it as, “as within, so without.” That is, what is going on in our interior life is directly expressed and reflected in the way we live our lives in the world.
The psychological and the political are inherently connected to each other.
The Enneagram, in its use as a tool for spiritual growth through knowledge of personality types, helps us address imbalances and disorder in our inner life. This is especially the case in the Riso-Hudson school, which pays a lot of attention to levels of health. The levels show the degree to which we are controlled by our personality-driven ego. The way to health is to bring the ego into balance and perspective, allowing one’s essence to emerge. Essence is the divine Light within us, by which we are connected to all creation and its Creator. Our essence is who we truly and most deeply are; as distinct from our superficial ego and its expression in personality.
If ego and personality are in defense-mode, essence embraces and engages. If ego and personality are about fear, essence demonstrates love. If ego and personality are about either-or, building walls, making distinctions, and exclusion, essence is about both-and, breaking boundaries, and inclusion. If ego and personality are habitually dualistic, essence is integral and non-dual.
Our psychology always manifests in our politics.
That is, the way we personally think and feel about ourselves and our relationship to the world will be shown in the way we act in the world and in the kind of structures we project into the world for our own security. If our inner lives are crippled by fear, shame, and anger, then these qualities will be what we express in our own behavior, and expect and therefore defend against from others. Fear, shame, and anger manifest in the behaviors classically listed as “deadly sins,” which in the Enneagram system are the nine “passions.”
If in our interior existence we crave and follow the orders of one particular element which we have allowed to take charge — our personality-driven ego — then we will also tend to live in the world in such a way that generates, looks up to, follows, and defends the principle of one leader. The dictatorship of the ego in our souls is expressed by our placing dictators into power in the world. Thus the Fuehrerprinzip, or “leader principle” of Nazi Germany, which was a particularly brazen and toxic version of the general human desire for “strong leadership.”
Just as we psychologically identify with our personality-driven ego, we politically identify with whatever seems best to protect us, rationalizing our fear, anger, and shame, and funding our passions. In practice this invariably means a propping up of the powerful, the wealthy, the connected, the educated, and the privileged; in other words, the establishment. Society becomes a macrocosm of a self dominated by one ego-perspective, which is put in charge. This is why we can postulate about cultures as relating to particular personality types, as in “America is a Three culture,” or “Japan is a Six culture.” One point-of-view is allowed to ascend into dominance in a society, analogous to the way one perspective — personality-driven ego/Type — comes to dominate the person.
The response to this domination system in society is analogous to the response to the domination system in the person. Step One is awareness. Like an addict, we have to realize that our common life has become unmanageable. We have to ask ourselves Dr. Phil’s infamous question: “How is that working out for you?” How is being dominated by the achiever class working out for us, “us” being the body as a whole, most of whom are in the servant-worker class? People have to wake up to the damage being done to themselves by the system, and start to see it as it is: an unhealthy regime we projected originally for good reasons, but which now separates us from the true freedom of our essence.
We see this happening in America when people read a book like Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, and realize that Columbus was a monster, the Founders were slave-holders, and the ruling class has consistently committed unspeakable crimes. We then engage in something like a 12-Step process to move beyond oppressive and toxic social structures.
Unfortunately, most revolutionary processes like this are unable to break free of the gravity of ego, and devolve into Pete Townsend’s “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” And we end up with the same basic regime but with a different segment of the establishment promoted to leadership.
But in health,
as we become more present and aware of our essence,
what we start slowly moving towards
is a leaderless, egalitarian, inclusive, distributed,
networked, decentralized, integrated society
where power is not allowed to congeal in one class let alone one individual,
where decisions are made by balancing different interests for the good of the whole.
We move towards flat, circular gatherings of reciprocity and exchange,
and away from top-down, pyramidal, exclusive, command-and-control structures.