The Sacred Enneagram covers much the same territory as other works on the Enneagram, such as a description of the nine types and its origins. As Heuertz sees it, “The paramount question plaguing humanity, has to do with identity. Who am I” (p. 16)? He believes the Enneagram is a valuable tool in self-identity because it “offers a sacred map for our souls, a map that when understood, leads us home to our true identity and to God” (p 26). That is because “it exposes nine ways we lie to ourselves about who we think we are, nine ways we can come clean about these illusions, and nine ways we can find our way back to God” (p. 25). Strangely, however, the author admits that “the Enneagram of Personality is clearly a modern invention in its infancy [and] . . . it is no overstatement to suggest that we hardly understand what we are working with, so we would do well to take a learning stance on humility” (p. 49). This is far less than a glowing endorsement for the claims of dynamic life – changes that Heuertz will attribute to the Enneagram throughout most of the book.
While The Sacred Enneagram rehashes much of the same teaching found in virtually all Enneagram books, there are a couple of noteworthy contributions. First, Heuertz’ version is significantly more complicated than many other descriptions. For example, he integrates psychology into the system, speaking often of finding our “True Self” (pp. 66, 102, 109). He details three tripartite groups: the Intellectual Centers, the Harmony Triads and the Dominant Affect Groups (pp. 141-151), as well as Jungian dream analysis (p. 102). He even throws New Age leader Eckhart Tolle (p. 169) and yoga into the mix (p. 174). All this makes for a system that is beyond the understanding of all but Enneagram “experts.” Even if the Enneagram had some validity, something which even Heuertz draws into question, as can be seen in the quote above, applying the true message and method of the Enneagram is beyond the reach of most seekers.
But the true uniqueness of The Sacred Enneagram is its heavy reliance and emphasis on contemplative spirituality (pp. 165, 169). Other Enneagram teachers incorporate a form of mysticism into their instruction, but Heuertz in essence views the Enneagram as a platform which undergirds contemplative practices, opening the door to mystical spirituality. It is the author’s view that it is contemplative practices which bring us into the transforming presence of God (pp. 156-157). These practices are traced back to Roman Catholic mystics such as St. John of the Cross, and more recent monks and priests such as Thomas Keating and Henri Nouwen (pp. 161, 173-176, 185-190). The particular practices Heuertz touts are centering prayer, invented by Keating (pp. 22, 221-223), the Ignatian Prayer of Examen (pp. 229-231), the Welcoming Prayer (pp. 231-233) and contemplative prayer (pp. 192-193). Contemplative prayer is marked by the postures of solitude, silence and stillness (p. 193). It is upon these three postures that Heuertz depends for spiritual growth and transformation (pp. 207-220, 236). These practices teach us to listen to our breath, body, instincts and the voice of God” (p. 202), for after all we are assured, “God’s first language is silence” (p. 193).
Much could be said in way of evaluation of Heuertz’s use of the Enneagram as a launching pad for contemplative practices, which supposedly “reconstructs” our lives, “reordering our identity into wholeness” (p. 192). But it should prove instructive that the Bible teaches spiritual transformation, wholeness and growth, through the means of the Holy Spirit and Scripture. Neither the Enneagram nor contemplative mysticism are found in God’s Word. This should be enough to alert the discerning believer to the dangers of a system devoid of any biblical base.
The Sacred Enneagram, Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth by Christopher L. Heuertz (Rapids: Zondervan, 2017), 268 pp, paper $18.99
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor/teacher at Southern View Chapel