The Enneagram

I learned something new today - the Enneagram.  It's kinda like the Myers-Briggs, a personality "inventory."  A colleague shared it with us today. 

The word enneagram actually refers to a nine-pointed geometrical structure (just like a pentagram is five-pointed). But in terms of the enneagram of personality, it is the belief that all people fit into one of nine different personality types - nine archetypal ways in we view ourselves and the world and our relation to the world.

It's thought that these nine types originally come from Sufi beliefs, and that together the nine types of people make up "the face of God." (This is interesting to me because I know that in Islam, nine is the perfect number, the number closest to God.) In that context, contemplating the enneagram is more than just a way to understand psychological interactions, but is a means to enlightenment. 

I'm still digesting it, and frankly find it to be more difficult to grasp than the Myers-Briggs but that may just be familiarity.  Anyway, I won't go into detail except to mention one thing I noticed with respect to the ennegagram as a spiritual tool.

According to Susan, the nine types are grouped into threes.
Types 8, 9, and 1 are motivated more by anger - they think w/their gut.  They are doers.
Types 2, 3, and 4 are motivated more by need for recognition from others - they think w/their heart.  They are relators.  
Types 5, 6, and 7 are motivated more by fear - they think w/their mind.  They are thinkers.  (I'm a 5.)

Well these three groups remind me of the three margas (paths) or yogas (unions) of Hinduism - karma (action), bhakti (devotion), and jnana (wisdom) respectively.  Hinduism recognizes that different people have different natural proclivities, and thus are suited to different spiritual paths.  No path is better than another, tho a path may be better suited for any one person than another path.  In short, there are those who prefer to act/do things, those who prefer to relate/show their devotion, and those who prefer to philosophize.  In the end, all three are necessary for moksha (liberation).  That is, all three are necessary for union with the Divine, much like the three groups of the nine types of the Enneagram.

And I do truly believe, lest we end up in feckless navel-gazing, maudlin sentimentality, or blind action, that all three - head, heart, and hands are necessary for the full spiritual life.

If you're interested in learning more, I found this site to be very helpful:

And here's an online diagnostic:


The Fall and the Fall

Happy Autumn Equinox Everybody!!

And Happy Fall. The "Fall" of Adam and Eve, that is. I would like to take time today to celebrate what Milton called "the blessed Fall."

In standard Christian theology, the Fall is seen as a tragic event. Humanity entered into sinfulness and were tossed out of Eden as punishment. I believe that the Fall was not only a blessed event, but inevitable, in "God's plan." The "Fall," the conscious decision to choose something different from "God's will" was necessary for humanity to grow up - to take moral responsibility, and thus be able to co-create (as partners with God) our own "destiny." Not something "pre-ordained" by another but chosen by us.

The loss of Eden was not a punishment; it too was inevitable. A&E learned the difference between good and evil and were no longer innocent. With their new-found knowledge they simply could not stay in that state of blissful ignorance. Before A&E ate from the tree/disobeyed, they theoretically could have been torturing baby animals and it would not have been a "sin" because God did not say they couldn't, and they were incapable of knowing why it was wrong. That was the "paradise" in which they lived. But after gaining the knowledge between good and evil, then they did not need commandments to tell them what was right and wrong. They knew it for themselves and could not help knowing it even if they didn't want to.

We leave Eden when we separate from God, or from Ultimate reality if you prefer. And yes, it is painful and yes, we want to return. Many would like to return to that exact same state of innocence/ignorance and lack of responsibility. It is the wrong kind of innocence to be pursuing. The only true option is to go forward. The Paradise/Heaven/Nirvana ahead of us is not the same as the one we left. The paradise ahead of us is the one that is without guilt because we do not do those things that would make us guilty. It is the Beloved Community.

As a questioning Christian teen one of the things that I never understood was why it wouldn't start all over again. Ok, so Adam and Eve ate the fruit and now we're all cursed with original sin. Then Jesus died for us so that our sins washed away and we can get into heaven. But then.... what's to prevent the whole thing from happening over again? The only way it wouldn't all happen over again is if there is an internal transformation, not just external "salvation." Christ may show us the way but we are our own "saviors." Ain't that both awesome and an awesome responsibility?

Celebrate the Fall. Celebrate your moral agency. And work towards our Paradise. Happy Fall.

Michael Vick

I've been hearing the details about Michael Vick and feeling sick. For those of you who don't know (altho I don't know how anyone could not), Vick is the star quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, charged with dog-fighting, raising pitbulls for fighting, training them for fighting, and if they perform well, executing them. Shooting, hanging, drowning, and electrocuting them. And in at least one case, picking up a dog and bashing it against the cement ground.

He's now banned from playing in the NFL and of course has lost millions of dollars in endorsements. And he's entering into a plea bargain to avoid trial, which means the full details will never be disclosed.

The president of the NAACP's Atlanta chapter says that Vick should be allowed back into the NFL after he serves his sentence. From my perspective, for what he and his "colleagues" did to those dogs, he should serve a sentence so long that he won't be in any condition to be playing football when he gets out. It sickens me how lightly animal cruelty is taken in this country.  I want to take seriously the suffering that Vick and his associates have caused.

But as a UU, I also have to believe that no one is beyond redemption. It also sickens me the way that people are perpetually ostracized, even after they have served their sentence, not allowed to return in fellowship to society, and therefore almost certainly forced to return to activities that are "unsocial." In that case, we are as much at fault as the person who "relapses." Surely it is too simplistic to just vilify him.  How do we as a society/community come back into right relations with Mr. Vick?

In Need of Grace

Maybe it's because I came back from my trip to Ithaca exhausted.  After a day of traveling by car and bus and finally metro train, I went directly to church for the last session of Theologies of Liberation.  Maybe it's because I myself am in need of Grace, but the most compelling thing that I remember from the participants' discussions is the feeling of being overwhelmed by the enormity of what is wrong in this world and our complicity.

For those who benefit from systems of oppression, sin is to contribute to the maintenance of these systems both actively and complicitly. For those who suffer under systems of oppression, sin is to accept this without resistance.

I have sinned.  We all have.  And despite our best intentions we will continue to do so.  We realized in that room that we are all in need of Grace.  And someone asked what Grace is.

Grace is forgiveness from sin.  It's the knowing that whatever wrong you've done, you are forgiven, without letting you off the hook for making things right.

Grace is unconditional love.  It's the feeling that whatever and whoever you are, you are loved, without letting you off the hook for being good.

Grace is the lifting of burden.  It's the realization that while you are fully responsible for your part, it's not only up to you to save the world.  Do what yours to do and trust that God/the interdependent web will do the rest.

The color of a wall

The color of a wall depends on the wall. In the same manner the isness of creatures depends on the love of God. Take the color from the wall and the color would cease to be. So too, all creatures would cease to exist if they were separated from the love that God is.

- Meister Eckhart

Prayer of U. S. Catholic Bishops

God of justice, open our eyes to see you in the face of the poor. Open our ears to hear you in the cries of the exploited. Open our mouths to defend you in the public squares as well as in private deeds. Remind us that what we do to the least ones, we do to you. Amen.

Serenity Prayer

GOD, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference. - attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr

Prayer of Thomas Merton

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.


People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you.
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building someone could destroy overnight.
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them, anyway.

- Mother Theresa

Franciscan Benediction

May God bless you with discomfort,

At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,

So that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger,

At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,

So that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears,

To shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war,

So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain to joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness,

To believe that you can make a difference in this world,

So that you can do what others claim cannot be done. Amen.


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