The Enneagram and Tarot

Over the last two years, I've had the most interesting and frustrating journey with tarot cards.  I started learning them two years ago and early on, began to see the connection between its archetypes and those of the Enneagram, which drove me to understand tarot as much as I could.  Surely, somewhere in humanity's distant history, the two modalities were used side-by-side, or at least they cross-pollinated each other over time.  So on the one hand, I feel like the Enneagram gave me insight that a lot of tarot readers today don't have, so I was going along feeling pretty confident in my abilities...  On the other hand, I also feel like I was terribly misled by them --or my interpretation of them-- on a certain topic that I was really passionate about, leading to me to make a major mistake.  Humbled and shocked that I could have stubbornly ignored some red flags, I've been searching for answers as to how this could have happened to someone who-- I felt!-- was working with them on a decently deep level.  I'm taking some time to untangle the threads and understand what to discard and what to keep.

 Image from

Image from

So this morning I spent a bit of time going through this book I've had on my shelf for a year.  It translates as The Tarot and Gurdjieff's Enneagram by Claude G. Thompson from Quebec, Canada.  I since realize there are English books on this incredibly complex intertwining of two systems of thought, and I should've started with one of those.  Reading Gurdjieff in your native language is mind-bending enough; reading it in French is insane.  Plus, I don't even like Gurdjieff's ideas of the cosmos- I don't see how they relate to our inner psychology, and if I don't feel like something is relevant to my personal growth, I'm not going to waste time on it.  Gurdjieff's Law of Seven was included in that.

This morning, however, I may have gotten a dim understanding of the connection between Gurjideff's boring and seemingly irrelevant cosmos ideas, his Law of Seven, and the major arcana of the tarot (which is what the author focuses on, as opposed to the minor arcana).  If a tarot reader or Enneagram coach can understand how to read each card in the placement of the querent's three "levels of consciousness", they can provide incredibly useful insight, helping their client come to a deep understanding of their conundrum, and how to get what they need for the next step in their development.  I've worked a couple times with an astrologer-cum-Jungian therapist who will only make an appointment with you if you're at a critical point of change astrologically.  She'll look at your chart and see if you're actually ready for change, and if not, she'll let you keep muddling your way through your shit till the planets are correctly aligned.  I think she's great-- she studied under Carl Jung's daughter, and Jung is a big hero of mine-- but honestly, helping a client see where they are in the scheme of things, and what they need to do to arrive at those huge eureka moments is worth the world to a frustrated client. 

The image you see on the cover of the book here is a bunch of circles and lines.  The innermost circle is the Enneagram symbol.  It contains a dotted equilateral triangle connecting points 9, 3, and 6; and an interesting 6-pointed thing connecting points 1, 4, 2, 8, 5, and 7.  In all, the numbers 1 to 9 circle around the symbol.  I've been learning and studying the Enneagram and what all those lines and numbers mean for the last six and a half years and it's been an incredible life-saver for me.  It's a personality system like Myers-Briggs, but with the essential component of a deep spiritual practice of mindfulness of oneself to get out of our ruts-- deeply entrenched personality habits that we've used to protect ourselves from being hurt since we were mere babes.  There are nine personality types in this system- or if you will, nine ways of protecting ourselves.  Every coin has two sides, though, so conversely, there are nine beautiful expressions of our true essence.  As far back as the time of the ancient Egyptians, the number nine has symbolized completeness and wholeness, and the Enneagram provides nine individualized maps for each type to grow out of their ruts and become the vital, alive, and stable people we can be- or whatever characteristics are associated with each type when they're fully open and available to the present moment.

Now for the tarot, which also uses the numbers 1-9.  Outside of the Enneagram symbol are three rows of smaller circles (This would be where you put the tarot cards during a reading).  The first row goes all the way around the inner circle.  Those who know the Enneagram know there is a connection between Gurdjieff's Law of Seven and the diatonic musical scale.  The scale is an aural archetype that resonates so deeply with us because it represents the full developmental process of every living thing on the planet, as well as the evolution of the cosmos themselves.  You can see where this gets complicated, but let's just focus for right now on the Western major C scale for an example.  On the piano in this instance, there are two places where there aren't any black keys separating the white notes; in other words, there are two half-steps between notes- between E and F (Mi and Fa), and B and the final C (Ti and Do).  Those half-steps mirror the inner process where we run into a blockage in our personal development, and need to do some inner work to make the unconscious conscious, thus elevating us to the next row of tarot cards (or the second octave), and further invigorating our developmental process.

The second row starts at point 3.  So to back up for a second, you've been going along in the first row of life-- Do, Re, Mi, and then you hit an impasse where the next note is only a semi-tone higher than the last.  This is called your first shock, and it requires some inner work and an outside force to get to Fa.  If you can make conscious what needs to be made conscious at that time, you start a new, deeper process-- or octave-- that arises out of point 3 on the Enneagram symbol in addition to the original octave you had going before. 

So one example Russ Hudson uses is the weight loss example.  You decide you want to lose weight, so you start exercising and going to the gym.  You're going along losing weight and getting a lot of success.  At a certain point, let's say after a couple months, you realize you've plateaued and you just aren't getting the same results you were before.  You persevere, but you go nowhere.  So now you get a trainer and they help you incorporate weights into your routine, because weight-training helps you burn fat while you're at rest.  So now you're on the second octave, and going along, going along with great success. 

Suddenly -- between Ti and Do-- you hit a second plateau, and you stop losing weight again despite having incorporated weights.  You get stuck.  The third octave, represented by the outermost row of tarot cards in the above picture, starts at point 6 and ends at point 8.  Hudson says that it's actually here that a lot of people drop out of the race and fail- they're one semi-tone away from completion at the final Do, but that second plateau is really tricky for people to get through for some reason.  It's here that our gym rat would need to try something new like paying more attention to their diet and maybe counting their calories to get to the final Do.  I'm not too sure how much further we can take the analogy at this point, but suffice it to say that at certain points in our growth, we need to start incorporating other measures that we discover through deep self-reflection and clear mind.  Clear mind helps us understand what we need to make it past the plateaus (or shock points) to the desired goal.

So again, if you're doing this tarot spread for a client, you'd be able to see what archetypal energies they need to incorporate in their lives to see out of their personality ruts.  I'll keep working my way through the book to see how to do this practically.  I'm convinced this can be very useful.