[NB] Enneagram of the Head

I am working on a very long post about the Boston Public Library, but that work is throwing off some sparks that merit some short posts. One of those has to do with the Enneagram. I’ve mentioned before that Gurdjieff and the Fourth Way formed some of the backdrop to my youthful forays into matters mystical and magical, so I came in contact with the Enneagram a while ago. As I ws thinking about the image of the severed head, a new story on the Enneagram popped up alongside another in my news feed.

I didn’t make the connection at first, just followed a few links around the internet to refresh my sense of the Enneagram. Pretty soon, I was thinking about the central triangle of the Enneagram and starting to wonder if the diagram formed part of the broader tradition in which the Sefer Yetzirah sits. Those three lines look, on the surface, like an expression of the rule of three and the nine points could be nine sefirot inscribed within the tenth.


I started counting and, well, it gets a little tricky. The Enneagram has nine lines, the three that form the central triangle plus six others. 3 and 6 is good for the Enneagram but bad for the SY. But, well, you could include the circle itself as a line, a seventh to the other six. That appeals to me because the seventh would be the line that includes Saturn, the line of boundaries and containment.

I started to dig a little to see what else I could turn up and came to this Wiipedia article summarizing how Ouspensky relayed Gurdjieff’s sense of the enneagram: “The enneagram according to Gurdjieff shows the ‘Law of Seven’ and the ‘Law of Three’ united.” Well, alrighty then. Thank you, Wikipedia, that was very helpful. Ouspensky proceeds to assign the seven tones to points on the diagram, placing Do at 3, 6, and 9. I can understand how this illustrates a kind of intersection, but I think it may be a mistake, the same sort of mistake that leads us to pile too much into the Sefirot of the Tree of Life diagrams and not enough into the system of lines.

I want to read the Enneagram like I would read the Tree of Life. The points become more dynamic, closer to the “living symbol in motion” that Gurdjieff asserted it to be. To make the points more dynamic, the lines need to be given more attention. Instead of joining the series of tones to the points, we can position them on the lines.

That seems siginificantly better than Ouspensky’s assignments because they allow us to read the lengths of the lines as a kind of musical notation, a cue to what tone they encode. If I decide to get very serious about this, I’ll have to sit down with the ratios that define tones and see if those have any bearing on the length of the Enneagram’s lines.

Rather than have ‘Do’ appear at 3, 6, and 9, I would assign it to the circle itself. This preserves the core meaning of Do, as defining the circle in which the tones circulate, but allows us to keep the seven and three distinguished. The Do manifests at 3, 6, and 9 because it is the triangle is inscribed on the circle, both defining and defined by it.

8-2 Re
1-4 Mi
2-4 Fa
5-7 So(l)
5-8 La
7-1 Ti
(Back to the top to close the circle)

Like that. Consider, for a moment, that Gurdjieff considered this a tool for catalyzing personal development and what we see here is the three elemental lines inscribed into the seven. The seven is the number of the orifices, and encircled what it suggests is that we are looking at a diagram of the head. Catalyzing the self is also code for initiation, and one of the foundations of initiations is our head (though this model has necromantic dimensions if applied to a skull).

The use of the DO appearing under the influence of the Mother lines? Yeah, catalyst. They also divide the seven into a three fold order that parallels the order of the double lines into pillars on the Gra and Ari diagrams of the Tree of Life. If it is the face, then the assignment of tones to planets and letters follows:

(DO) (Gimel-Jupiter)
8-2 Re (Resh-Mercury)
1-4 Mi (Dalet-Mars)
(DO) (Gimel-Jupiter)
2-4 Fa (Bet-Saturn)
5-7 So (Tav-Moon)
(DO) (Gimel-Jupiter)
5-8 La (Kaf-Sun)
7-1 Ti (Pe-Venus)

In doing so, I have kept with my own sense that Gimel belongs in the mouth and that mouth as the source of tones is primary to the circle, rather than Bet. Now to see if it works…

5 thoughts on “[NB] Enneagram of the Head

  1. Some interesting musings here. I am not a initiate of the Enneagram by any means. I’ve had enough explained to me a few times but I don’t really get it. I may have to take a workshop at some point — you know, get initiated. 🙂

    That said I think that there is something beneficial about associating it with the headless one. Karma culture teaches that there is huge benefit in layering and stocking of ideas. That when we make a simple, we benefit from using that symbol’s proportion to teach something about both music and geometry. If that simple also teaches us something about personality, or psychology, so much the better. It allows us to compress much into a little space. It is this problem that I am myself wrestling with. I call it implicate and Explicate and I think that it comes from Gurjdieff. But; I have only had that Siri explain to me. I have never read it.

    In any case, it seems to me that you are trying to pack a lot of information into this simple, that was not necessarily there to begin with. That’s not bad, in esoteric sense because you’re engaged in this very rich process. But. We can also take the emblem of magic, and explicate. That is, we can unpack that. We can express them according to our own ideas about beauty add elegant and as statics and meaning; and the results of that word is that we expand the body of Lawrence associated with the symbol and it’s seed form.

    I like where you’re going with that. And I like the thought that you are inspiring in me.

    1. Io

      “In any case, it seems to me that you are trying to pack a lot of information into this simple, that was not necessarily there to begin with.”

      I don’t disagree with this characterization; I’m leaning hard into the models I have to hand, though I tend to think of it a little akin to Bakhtin’s discussion of speech. Just as the word becomes plastic and more expressive in use than it is ‘by definition,’ this sort of simple, well-structured symbol can become plastic in novel application.

      There is a point here about time and our sense of it. The word as it is, the there to begin with element, rests in our sense of the past as it determines the present. In speech, in pushing at it like this, I am trying to stretch toward a future for it, but I’m hoping not to lose its roots while I do that. I have definitely overshot in a few places and had to wind myself back, find where I lost the thread.

      Fwiw, I first heard of the implicate/explicate order when I was reading David Bohm.

      1. I think it’s a very cool idea, myself. I like finding new meanings in old symbols… new wine in old casks, bursting forth with brilliant new flavors.

  2. Pingback: Exemplary Cases: Yesod, Klippot, and Fan Fiction – Disrupt & Repair

  3. Pingback: [NB] Sefer Yetzirah 1.1-1.8 (Gra translation) – Disrupt & Repair

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