Fourth Way enneagram

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The Fourth Way enneagram is a figure published in 1949 in In Search of the Miraculous by P.D. Ouspensky, and an integral part of the Fourth Way esoteric system associated with George Gurdjieff. The term "enneagram" derives from two Greek words, ennea (nine) and gramma (something written or drawn), and was coined by Gurdjieff in the period before the 1940s.[1]

Enneagram with point numbers and octave designations for octave beginning at point 9. Points 3 and 6 show "shock points" at which a new Do may enter and develop alongside the existing octave.

The enneagram is a nine-pointed figure usually inscribed within a circle. Within the circle is a triangle connecting points 9, 3 and 6. The inscribed figure resembling a web connects the other six points in a cyclic figure 1-4-2-8-5-7. This number is derived from or corresponds to the recurring decimal .142857 = 1/7. These six points together with the point numbered 9 are said to represent the main stages of any complete process, and can be related to the notes of a musical octave, 9 being equivalent to "Do" and 1 to "Re" etc. The points numbered 3 and 6 are said to represent "shock points" which affect the way a process develops. The internal lines between the points; that is, the three-point figure and the six-point figure, are said to show certain non-obvious connections, although here very little elucidation is offered.


As reported by P. D. Ouspensky the enneagram was introduced by George Gurdjieff to his study groups in Saint Petersburg and Moscow in 1916. Ouspensky records this original explication in his book of Gurdjieff's teaching In Search of the Miraculous where the enneagram appears as Figure 44 and in further diagrams.[2] It was presented as an ancient secret being released for the first time, the truth behind for example the philosopher's stone. Ouspensky quotes Gurdjieff as saying; "The knowledge of the enneagram has for a very long time been preserved in secret and if it now is, so to speak, made available to all, it is only in an incomplete and theoretical form without instruction from a man who knows". Gurdjieff also remarked "In order to understand the enneagram it must be thought of as in motion, as moving. A motionless enneagram is a dead symbol, the living symbol is in motion." [3]

Although no earlier record of the Fourth Way version of the enneagram can be cited, it has been proposed that it may derive from, or be cognate to the reversed Kabbalistic Tree of Life as used in "Etude sur les origines de la nature du Zohar", by S. Karppe, Paris, 1901, pp. 387, the Great Magical Arcanum of Eliphas Levi which is also composed of a circle triangle and hexad, the Magical Acanum of Helena Blavatsky in Isis Unveiled (1877), and Leonhard Euler's nine-point circle. There has also been speculation that it may be related to the Pythagorean Tetractys, which also combines the numbers 3 and 7. Renaissance Hermeticism (which used an enneagram of three interlocking triangles, also called a nonagram)[4] or a nine-pointed figure used by the Christian medieval philosopher Ramon Llull.[4]

Idries Shah, a populariser of Sufism, has claimed that the enneagram has a Sufi provenance and that it has also been long known in coded form disguised as an octagram.[5] Another claim to a Sufi provenance is offered by the Sufi Enneagram website.[6] The archives of the Naqshbandi Sufi order of Daghestan have been claimed to provide an account of a meeting between Gurdjieff and Shaykh Sharafuddin Daghestani in which the secret of the nine points was transmitted to Gurdjieff.[7]

Robin Amis claims an Orthodox Christian origin, claiming that both Gurdijeff and Ouspensky developed their teaching with insights gained from visits to Mount Athos.[8]

Another proposal suggests the diagram is a map of the chakras from yogic schools,[9] although this is implausible since the earliest cakra doctrine posits five cakras and the later classical statement of the cakra doctrine posits six cakras, not nine.[10]

Background of the enneagram in Gurdjieff's cosmology[edit]

The enneagram according to Gurdjieff shows the "Law of Seven" and the "Law of Three" united and so some explanation of these laws is necessary here.

The Law of Seven or law of octaves, according to which phenomena evolves in seven steps; and the Law of Three, according to which phenomena are produced by three forces, are presented by Gurdjieff as global laws appearing on all scales and essential to his cosmology. This cosmology offers a view of how the world operates said to derive from alchemy and more ancient sources, and to complement or complete modern experimental science rather than to contradict it. According to this cosmology everything is material, including consciousness and spirit, and all matter can be assigned a "density"; consciousness and spirit for example having lower "densities" (and therefore higher "vibrations") than, for example, water while, for example, rock has a higher "density" and lower "vibration" than water, and so on.

The diatonic scale in music is said to be an ancient application of the Law of Seven and a convenient way to study it.[11] The major musical scale is used with short intervals at mi-fa and ti-do (Ouspensky refers to Ti as "Si" and So as "Sol" and the diagrams on this page reflect his usage). In other words, if one thinks of a standard musical keyboard and takes for example middle C as Do then the following six white keys, DEFGAB will represent the rest of the octave, and the next white key will be the higher C. There will be black keys between each of the white keys, except between E and F (the mi-fa interval) and between B and the higher C (the si-do interval)

In any process described in terms of the Law of Seven, the Mi-Fa interval and the Ti-Do interval are said to be shock points where outside help is needed if the octave is to continue to develop as intended. A failure to recognize this in terms of human projects is said to be a major reason why things go wrong in general.[12] The octave of electromagnetic radiation that appears as visible light, and the periodic table are said to be examples of physical phenomena where the underlying Law of Seven can be detected (although no detail is offered here). The musical scale Gurdjieff is quoted as using[13] is not the modern standard musical scale but Ptolemy's intense diatonic scale, a just intonation scale associated with the Renaissance composer and musical theorist Gioseffo Zarlino.

The Law of Three holds that three forces act on any event, which can be called Active, Passive, and Neutralizing forces, or simply First, Second, and Third forces respectively. These three forces can appear in any order, 123 for example or 312, giving 6 possible "triads" of forces describing 6 very broad types of event.[14] Humanity is said to be "third force blind", to have difficulty recognizing the third force, which may appear to us in the guise of a result or of a background environment. "People cannot perceive the third force directly any more than they can spatially perceive the 'fourth dimension'" Gurdjieff is quoted as saying.[15] In terms of the Law of Seven one of the three forces appears as the "do" of the octave and the other two appear as the "shocks" (which also function as the do of new octaves) The explanation of these laws in In Search of the Miraculous is largely in abstract terms, with some detail given for the so-called "food diagram" described below and the cosmic octave, the Ray of Creation.

The enneagram shows the Law of Seven and the Law of Three in a single symbol with the three forces joined in a triangle at the 3,6 and 9 points, and in addition six inner lines (hexad) following the 1,4,2,8,5,7,1,... sequence. The meaning of these six inner lines is not, by Ouspensky's account, made clear by Gurdjieff. One shock point is shown on the enneagram at point 3, which is the Mi-Fa interval where it might be expected. However the other is at point 6, at the So-La interval. It might have been expected to be at the Ti-Do interval, and Gurdjieff is presented as offering this apparent mistake as a mystery to be solved.[16] Ouspensky offers the solution that the shock at point 3 itself develops as an octave to point 6, where its own Mi-Fa interval occurs. This second octave cannot develop unless it has a shock at its own Mi-Fa, and this is the shock which in fact occurs at point 6.[17] The example of the "food diagram" enneagram summarized below might clarify this.

Application to processes: the food diagram[edit]

As the enneagram figure is a symbol said to represent the "law of seven" and the "law of three" in unity, therefore, according to this view, the figure can be used to describe any natural whole phenomenon, cosmos, process in life or any other piece of knowledge. The figure is the central organizing glyph of the Fourth Way's view of the material world which Gurdjieff is quoted by Ouspensky as relating to alchemy.

Enneagram representing the evolution of food with "self remembering" at point 6

The most detailed example of how this is said to work, given in In Search of the Miraculous, is an explanation of how Gurdjieff believed inputs to the human body ("food", "air" and "impressions", collectively regarded as types of food) are processed into the so-called "higher substances" necessary for higher consciousness to function. In Gurdjieff's view "everything is material"; consciousness and spirit are to be regarded as aspects of matter, although more refined or of a "higher vibration" than perceptible aspects. This proposition is an essential basis for Gurdjieff's view of the evolution of food into the "higher substances" necessary for higher consciousness; briefly summarized below from the account in In Search of the Miraculous.[18] The Fourth Way, a later collection of Ouspensky's talks, is a supplementary source for the same material.

At point 9 ordinary food (beginning as Do) is eaten and enters the body and digestion begins. The "density" of human food is assigned a number, 768.

At point 1 it is said to be processed in the gut as Re and is refined to a "density" of 384 the same "density" as water.

At point 2 the food is further refined to Mi and assigned a density of 192, the same density as air. It has entered the blood stream.

At point 3, Mi-Fa, occurs a "shock". Air can provide this shock because it also is of density 192, and furthermore this air enters as a new Do

At point 4 the original food octave is at "Fa" but the new air octave is at Re. They are both in the bloodstream at "density" 96, the "density" of hormones and vitamins and rarefied gases and animal magnetism "and so on". At this point we reach the end of "what is regarded as matter by our physics and chemistry"[19] It should be remembered that Gurdjieff is here speaking in 1916.

The substances or energies at point 5 are assigned a "density" of 48 and used in thought. These are the So or "Sol" part of the original food octave and the Mi part of the air octave.

Point 6 being where "impressions", regarded as a type of food, are said to enter the body. "Impressions" are said to also have a "density" of 48, and can serve as a shock if they are intensified by some such means as the exercise of "self-remembering" taught by Gurdjieff, thus allowing the air and impressions octaves to proceed. Otherwise only the ordinary food octave, shown in black in the diagram, proceeds.

Point 7 represents emotional and other energies, of a "density" of 24. If "self-remembering" occurs this will be the Fa point for the air octave and the Re point for the impressions octave. Otherwise it will just be the La point for the original food octave.

At point 8, the "Si" or Ti at the end of the first "ordinary food" octave represents the sexual energies, of "density" 12; which are the "highest substance" according to Gurdjieff which the body produces naturally without conscious intervention. A desire to conserve this "higher substances" for esoteric use is said to be the original reason for religious celibacy. With the conscious intervention at point 6 of "self remembering" further and more useful "higher substances" are created, represented by the air octave's So or "Sol" at point 8 and the impression octave's Mi at point 8. This Mi of "density" 12 is the "higher substance" primarily necessary for Gurdjieff's esoteric method.[20](Ouspensky makes some further remarks on the nature of this Mi 12 and Sol 12 in his book Fourth Way.) A further conscious shock, requiring "a special type of control over the emotions" at point 9 would enable a new "higher" or spiritual body to begin to grow, this is represented by Gurdjieff as the aim of his and other esoteric traditions. Although not shown in the diagram on this page, the Air octave, if it has a shock at Point 6 in fact may proceed to La with a "density" of 6.

Ouspensky related the inner six-line figure of the Food Diagram enneagram to the circulation of the blood. Point 1 in his account representing the digestive system, point 2 the blood stream/heart, point 4 the breathing system, point 5 the brain, point 7 the spinal cord and point 8 the sympathetic nervous system and sex organs. He wrote that the inner lines "showed the direction of the flow or distribution of arterial blood in the organism and then its return in the form of venous blood. It was particularly interesting that the point of return was not the heart but the digestive system which indeed is the case since venous blood is first of all mixed with the products of digestion, it then goes to the right auricle, through the right ventricle, then to the lungs to absorb oxygen, and from there goes to the left auricle and then the left ventricle and then through the aorta into the arterial system"[21]

Other applications to processes[edit]

Other applications of the enneagram to describing processes can be found in writings influenced by those of Gurdjieff,[22] notably in the writings of J.G. Bennett. In his book Gurdjieff: Making a New World[23] Bennett describes the workings of a community kitchen in terms of the enneagram and offers some explanation of the meaning of the internal lines. Another of his books, Enneagram Studies,[24] is devoted to the subject, offering nine examples of enneagrams in various applications. Rodney Collin in his book The Theory of Celestial Influence relates the enneagram to the planets of the solar system, and the yearly cycle, and also offers some explanation of the inner lines.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Google Ngram Viewer". Retrieved 4 January 2020.
  2. ^ In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching, 1949, (reprinted 1977), PD Ouspensky, Routledge and Keegan Paul Ltd, London, pp. 285–295, 376–8.
  3. ^ Ouspensky, P.D. (1949). In Search of the Miraculous. New York and London: Harcourt Brace, and Routledge. p. 294. ISBN 0-15-600746-0. ISBN is for Mariner Books, 2001. Quote: "The knowledge of the enneagram has for a very long time been preserved in secret and if it now is, so to speak, made available to all, it is only in an incomplete and theoretical form of which nobody could make any practical use without instruction from a man who knows."
  4. ^ a b Webb, James (2001). The Harmonious Circle: The Lives and Work of G.I. Gurdjieff, P.D. Ouspensky, and Their Followers. New York and London: Putnam USA, and Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-87773-427-5. ISBN is for Shambhala Publications, 1987.
  5. ^ Shah, Idries (1994). The Commanding Self. London: Octagon Press. ISBN 0-86304-070-5. ISBN is for 1997 edition. The enneagram is disguised as "two superimposed squares" with the space in the middle representing the ninth point.
  6. ^ "Overview".
  7. ^ "Shaykh Abdullah al-Fa'iz ad-Daghestani | the Naqshbandi-Nazimiyya Sufi Order of America: Sufism and Spirituality". Archived from the original on 5 April 2015. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  8. ^ Staff (14 July 2006). "The direct connection between the Fourth Way and Inner Christianity". Praxis Research Institute. Archived from the original on 23 July 2014. Retrieved 19 August 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  9. ^ van Laer, L. (2003). "Chakras and the enneagram".
  10. ^ Heilijgers-Seelen, Dory (1992). The system of five cakras in Kubjikāmatatantra 14–16: a study and annotated translation (Thesis). S.l.: s.n.] OCLC 905777672.
  11. ^ In Search of the Miraculous, page 124 Routledga and Keegan, 1950/1973
  12. ^ ISOTM, page 126=129, Routledge and Kegan Paul 1950/1973
  13. ^ In Search of the Miraculous Fig 11, page 125 Routledga and Keegan, 1950/1973
  14. ^ Ouspensky: A Further Record p174, accessed through web,
  15. ^ ISOTM, page 77, Routledge and Kegan Paul 1950/1973
  16. ^ ISOTM, page291, Routledge and Kegan Paul 1950/1973
  17. ^ ISOTM, page378, Routledge and Kegan Paul 1950/1973
  18. ^ ISOTM figures 25–39, pages 182–192;figures 59 and 60, Routledge and Kegan Paul,1950
  19. ^ ISOTM 1950 page 175
  20. ^ ISOTM 1950, page 193
  21. ^ ISOTM 1950, page 378
  22. ^ For example, A.G.E. Blake's The Intelligent Enneagram (Shambhala, 1995), an excerpt from this book plus other material and references on the enneagram of process can be found on Blake's "Duversity" site , accessed 25 June 2010
  23. ^ Gurdjieff: Making a New World, Spiritual Classics Edition 1992, Appendix on the enneagram
  24. ^ Enneagram Studies. York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1983.
  25. ^ pages 108 and 190, Figures 7 and 8