History

A Call to Inject the Third Force into Feminism

One of my favorite bloggers, Joanne Wilson, often posts about feminism in tech and entrepreneurship, and while I'm glad for such a smart cheerleader and champion, I see the feminist moving is in great need of an esoteric boost to maintain itself as a serious voice with the next generation of torchbearers.

I'm a feminist in the sense that I'm a woman who's bowled over with gratitude every time I'm reminded of what the suffragettes went through to bring us the vote.  One of the first things I plan on doing after I've crossed over to the other side is to run over and get a spot at their feet to hear their stories (and then right after that, I'll be making my way over to the story-telling area by the men and women who fought for the 40-hour work week, some other heroes of mine.)

The problem is that feminism has gotten a bit long in the tooth in its current day incarnation, and it's definitely not because our hearts aren't in the right place, it's just that more is being revealed to the Western consciousness that we can work with, and it's becoming clear that without that material, we're stuck in dualistic thinking.  Watching feminists blast out the same subejct matter today without using the "third force" is getting lame and boring, and it absolutely shouldn't be, but what new thing is there to be said on the topic that hasn't already been said?  Why isn't it having the same cutting edge as it used to?

I only have 7 minutes to complete this blog post, so just really quickly, dualistic thinking is- let's say- the plane, or the medium, in which the human ego operates.  It sees reality in binary opposites.  When we meditate, however, reaching more and more integrative states neurologically, we bring the third force into play, revealing a third, but previously hidden dimension to reality that we couldn't see before.  This is called the Law of Three among Gurdjieffians, people who study the Enneagram and/or who read the works of 19th century esoteric George Gurdjieff.  (I've written about it before, and this is a video explaining it.)

There.

Now to veer off course for two seconds.  I don't actually believe in gender.  I think we're at a time now when plural genders have officially been recognized by western thought, that we can squint into the murkiness and see that personality actually runs deeper than gender, and those quirky personality differences within gender sterotypes are actually real categories of personalities that have been lurking under the broadly painted brush strokes of blue and pink. 

 My attempt at drawing George Gurdjieff, 2012.  He remains a controversial figure, but his insight into the human condition and its connection to the laws of the universe are undisputed.

My attempt at drawing George Gurdjieff, 2012.  He remains a controversial figure, but his insight into the human condition and its connection to the laws of the universe are undisputed.

Another widely held theory we must divest ourselves of to get to bring this baby home- Newton's first law of motion- that what goes into motion stays in motion.  We all know that when we put our minds to losing 20 pounds, if we do the same exercises over and over again for eternity, we're not going to lose 20 pounds.  We usually reach a point where we have to do something new or extra to keep the momentum going.  Like eventually we're going to realize we have to eat fewer fats, or start keeping track of our meals in a food diary.  With forward motion comes clearer consciousness, which, at certain points in the cycle, needs the Law of Three injected in it to keep the forward motion going.  That injection might look optional at a certain point, but given enough time, we're going to see how mandatory and essential it is to our homeostasis.  Gurdjieffians call this the Law of Seven, and it correlates to the musical octave of do to do, with two ternary injections in each cycle of seven to keep its forward trajectory going.

Therefore if feminism is an organism, and if we're to maintain its forward momentum, we need a third force injected right about now- that of mindful awareness of our egos so that we can see 1) in its fight for equality of the sexes- a very justified fight, it is inadvertently revealing a deeper current, a new and deeper level that is actually the essential battle ground for humans- that of our ego, id, and superego; or as the ancient Egyptians would have called it, our Set, Horus, and Osirus; and 2) once women have this awareness practice under their belts, they'll be infinitely more equipped to not only say new and innovative things about gender that haven't been revealed to human consciousness before, but they'll be able to develop in themselves what feminists have been saying it takes to do the practical things they need to take their place in this world like stand up for themselves, break glass ceilings, and demand and take advantage of flexible work schedules and quality child care.

Consider this a scribble on a napkin before work.  There is much more that can be said, and someday I will write a book about this, but I wanted to address some thoughts that have been coming together in my head.  We can't stay binary any more- we are going to run into the ground if we don't incorporate deep self-awareness practices like mindfulness as men and women.  Mindfulness is mandatory now.

Intro to Position Paper

I'm writing Rhode and Company's position paper, and I'm going to start sending out portions of it in my blog day-by-day.  Here's the first section.

"Like any field of scientific study, personality psychology needs a descriptive model or taxonomy of its subject matter.... A taxonomy would permit researchers to study specified domains of personality characteristics.... Moreover, a generally accepted taxonomy would greatly facilitate the accumulation and communication of empirical findings by offering a standard vocabulary or nomenclature.  Most every researcher in the field hopes, at one level of another, to be the one who devises the structure that will transform the present Babel into a community that speaks a common language."

-- John P. Oliver, Insitute of Personality Assessment and Research, University of California

 

 

introduction

The purpose of this paper is threefold.  It provides a general survey of psychology's attempts to categorize people into personality typing systems, and it tracks how psychotherapy has attempted to respond to the various types' needs.  

The second is to provide a survey of the major 21st century Enneagram thinkers and how they see the Enneagram as corresponding to the major personality theories in the field. 

Finally, this paper makes the case that excellent therapy requires a client's spiritual nature to be taken into account along with their physical, intellectual, and emotional condition. The Enneagram, an elegant fusion of psychology and several ancient wisdom traditions, has the ability to combine quite a few mainstream personality theories, and do so to a degree of accuracy that has heretofore been unattained.  It is the fundamental organizing principle of personalities that philosophers and psychoanalysts have been looking for since Hippocrates.



relevance of the enneagram

For almost as long as humans have wondered, "what does it all mean?", there has been advice on how to triumph over our primitive animal passions and transcend our limitations to achieve something great and meaningful.  The Buddha taught how to awaken from slumber; Plotinus enjoined us to look within to The One, Christianity implored the dark world to see Christ's light, Sufism advocated for a kind of wisdom that only an idiot would understand. 

The message today in our fast-paced society is no different; whereas in ancient times, it was a call to awaken from our trance-like state and develop virtuous qualities, with the advent of psychoanalysis, we had professionals to help us integrate our unconscious with the conscious.  Abraham Maslow came along and replaced the therapist with paved the way for America's homegrown spirituality- the Human Potential Movement, where we work to achieve self-actualization. today, our higher self is called forth in private coaching sessions or in jam-packed arenas.   Though the vocabulary is different, there is a common instinct that psychologists have noted that makes us pine for a worthier pursuit than our day-to-day survival.  Marie-Louise von Franz eloquently noted mankind's thirst for "something more":

Nowadays more and more people, especially those who live in large cities suffer from a terrible emptiness and boredom, as if they are waiting for something that never arrives.  Movies and television, spectator sports and political excitements may divert them for a while, but again and again, exhausted and disenchanted, they have to return to the wasteland of their own lives.  The only adventure that is still worthwhile for modern man lies in the inner realm of the unconscious psyche.

For most of us, the realities of the post-modern western world mean working harder to stay in the same place as our parents were a generation ago.  With such factors affecting us today as the shrinking middle class, the threat of job loss to automation, and consequently longer working days, more pressure on women by our culture to simultaneously break the glass ceiling while also giving their children more one on one time than our mothers did, there is a lot of pressure on us than there was 30 years ago.

Question for Bill Nye

Big Think, an American think tank, invites readers to send in videotaped questions to Bill Nye.  I sent in my question yesterday about how the Greeks viewed the number zero- how they didn't want to adopt it, even though it could have helped them in their math and science, because of what it represented- the void, nothingness,

CatholicVote made a huge mistep last week

I lost my mind on social media today.  It's been a long time since I've been this angry.  I got involved in the social media conversation about a 2:30 video that incensed me like few things do.  I've never once in my life been called a troll (not that the word troll has been around that long), but today a Disqus commenter named MaryMagdalene told me to

"Blow it out your ear.... If you don't like it, don't read it. At least I am good at reading comprehension, Einstein."  (if you click on my disqus profile below, you'll see more of her comments).

 It appears Catholic Vote put out a video to reassure Catholics that they weren't alone in the stance against equal rights. 

It appears Catholic Vote put out a video to reassure Catholics that they weren't alone in the stance against equal rights. 

So to set the scene, the reason I finally rolled up my sleeves to figure out how to tweet this morning was because of this insanely self-pitying video that got posted on youtube by an organization named  CatholicVote a week ago.  The premise is that real life Catholics are "coming out" on screen-- in the style of a coming out video-- that they are against gay marriage.    

There are a few reasons why this got me trolling- one of them being that they tactlessly used their own victim's meme to make themselves appear like the victim of their former victims.  In other words, a mere two weeks ago, a minority group directly and indirectly oppressed by the Catholic church has gained a freedom that in the space of a week, has led the Catholic church to feel victimized enough to take their former victim's place in front of the camera and tell the story of themselves, the oppressors who now feel victimized. 

The galling act of hypocrisy and insensitivity made many viewers shake their head and wonder if they were watching a SNL parody; it will probably go down in history as one of the internet's worst PR disasters. (I'm not actually versed in relative magnitudes of internet PR disasters, but within the first seven days online, the video has received 547,514 views, with 1,600 upvotes and almost 15,000 downvotes.  You can also see the smoke from the comments section from here.)

You can actually still lose your job in the US for being LGBT in 29 US states; last week's Supreme Court decision hasn't affected that fact at this point, and as one commentor wrote, these Catholics are afraid of people moving away from them at a cocktail party, not of being beat up while walking to their car in broad daylight.  Furthermore, the LGBT community can still legally be denied work and housing because of their sexual orientation. 

Moreover, the fact that the tag line was "we have something to say and we're no longer afraid to say it" blew my mind, because if we all think about it really hard here, the Catholic church has been saying gays should not be allowed to marry for... a really ....really... REALLY long time.  Like an eternal time. They were ... actually... NEVER... afraid to say it.  The tagline should have been, "We have something to say... and we're still saying it."

The thing is, a lot of us were probably bigots in the 80's and 90's, just because we didn't know much about homosexuality, I know I didn't.  I was still going to church and my youth pastor would tell us all the "disgusting" things gays did to each other, and we would watch his hand movements with big, wide eyes, because I mean, probably most of us didn't even have any sexual experience at that time, so we would've bought anything at that point.  But things have just changed, and when new information comes to light (being gay is biologically determined, actually quite normal and gay people have sex because they love each other), you shed old beliefs like old clothing that's worn out or doesn't fit anymore.  It's ok to do that.  It's ok to get on the party wagon.  It's ok to update your beliefs based on new realities. 

As commentors said over and over again today, pay attention, do your research and educate yourselves, because you don't want to end up on the wrong side of history. 

P.S. The parody version has already been made and it's funny.
 


The Confederate Flag and Psychological Red Flags: How to Avoid Becoming a Mass Murderer

... although the vast majority of us don’t make it all the way to the bottom of the ladder like Dylann did, if we have his personality type, we’re going to experience similar inner red flag moments, only at a higher level.

Last week, I blogged about Rachel Dolezal, urging her to take a step from her heart to her body, and just notice what physical sensations came up at the thought of her white biological heritage- perhaps rage at her parents, frustration at not feeling understood by society, disdain for her whiteness, any kind of jealousy.  When she thinks about who she is as a white woman as opposed to a black woman, I asked her to notice the sensations in her body without judging them- a tensing up of the muscles, heat in the throat, a change in breathing.  I thought she might be an Enneatype 4 in the Enneagram personality typing system.  This type confounds suffering with authenticity, and therefore value, so I looked at the psychic structure of a Creative/Romantic personality type who had gone too far.

With that, I decided to start a weekly series about people in the news to give readers an insight into the psychology behind whoever's currently being highlighted in social media.

  Roof being taken into custody.   Image from NBC news. 

Roof being taken into custody.  Image from NBC news. 

This week, I'm looking at Dylann Roof, the 21-year old gunman who shot nine members of the African Methodist Episcopalian Church on June 17.  It seems pretty clear that he will receive the maximum penalty (either life in prison or the death penalty, depending on if he's tried at the State level for murder or Federal for a hate crime.  According to a New York Times article from June 26, it will probably be a Federal trial.) (Source). 

Red flags for a Type One:

Shockpoint at level 3: That my principles are not having enough effect (others are indifferent/ unresponsive)

Red flag at level 6: That my standards are questionable or actually mistaken.
— The Wisdom of the Enneagram

It's important to understand the psychology of those who have completely made a break from society because, although the vast majority of us don't make it all the way to the bottom of the ladder like Dylann did, if we have his personality type, we're going to experience similar inner red flag moments, only at a higher level. 

Our response to those red flags can determine where we go on the ladder of emotional intelligence.  We can either react to the fear (thus descend further), or notice the fear and bring awareness to it (allowing us to ascend).

Although there is very little information about Dylann's inner life to go on at this point-- he didn't have many friends, nor did he open up much to those few he did call friends-- it appears from various reports that he might be an Enneagram Type One.  I'm going by his online manifesto, witness accounts of what he said while gunning down the victims, and descriptions from his friends and family.*

This episode of High Maintenance is a great character study of an Enneatype One.  Scott gives himself a highly disciplined daily regimen of sleep, nutrition, and exercise to achieve a higher state of being.  His stringency leads him away from relationships and ultimately reality.

Enneagram type Ones are called the Perfectionists or the Reformers of the Enneagram.  Benjamin Franklin embodied the Type One objective to attain moral perfection by devising an experiment where he worked on one virtue a week, slowly incorporating more virtues until he was completely free from selfishness, greed, and laziness at the end of the experiment.  This is not to say that all Type Ones consciously go through a list of virtues like Franklin did, only that self-perfecting or perfecting others and society is utmost in their minds. 

Riso and Hudson call them "crusaders, advocates, critics"; they embrace 'causes' and point out how things 'ought' to be". 

They keenly feel the struggle between good and evil, the flesh and the spirit, the ideal and the real.  For Ones, the battle lines are sharply drawn between the chaotic, irrational side of their natures and the clarity of their convictions, between the dark, libidinous impulses and their self-control, between their metaphysical aspirations and their human needs- between their heads and their hearts. (Riso and Hudson, 1996).

As they descend down the ladder of emotional intelligence, they "become impersonal, rigid, emotionally constricted." 

"...given their fundamental premise, they are locked in conflicts between opposing forces that cannot be reconciled either in themselves or in the universe. 

According to his step-mother who did most of the child-rearing, Dylann was a sweet child as a four-year old, and very attached to her, as opposed to his father who was verbally and emotionally abusive.  Predictably, as he grew up, he became more cold and drawn into his inner world so that by the time he was an adult, she worried because he spent most of his time in his room in front of his computer, while her coaxing him to get a job went ignored.  On February 22, 2015, he registered his website under his name and posted pictures of himself looking directly into the camera, posing with his .45 caliber Glock, holding a Confederate flag in the other hand. 

On the outside, Ones can appear sweet, dutiful, and hard-working; whereas on the inside they are being flogged by an overactive superego that orders them to keep their impulses, emotional responses, and desires in check.  In response to their superego's strident demands, they are continually striving to attain a state of perfection they have in their minds as the universal transcendant standard that only they seem to see.  The intense pressure their superego puts on them to achieve this state of perfection often leaks out into their relationships with others, making their friends, family, and colleagues feel judged, diminished or hassled for not being good enough. 

In Dylann's case, he had an aversion to African-Americans because, he said, they were "stupid", "violent", and "very slick".  He felt white neighborhoods were being taken over by Blacks, and typical of a One's bitterness at "cowards" for leaving them with all the work, he called out those he thought were "running away" to the suburbs instead of standing up and fighting for their neighborhoods.  Ones are frequently exasperated that they are the only ones who see the work that needs to be done and complain bitterly that they're the only ones qualified enough to bring it up to standard. 

Who is fighting for these White people forced by economic circumstances to live among negroes? No one, but someone has to.

White supremacy illustrates an impulse for cleanliness from "impurity". Cleanliness was indeed an issue for Dylann, as family members said he developped OCD in his teenage years.

Although the Enneagram Institute provides two examples of Type One comedians (Jerry Seinfeld and Tina Fey), and the type generally tries to mask these "negative" feelings of disapproval of their surroundings with ones they deem more positive, it's not hard to notice the severity with which they approach life.  There is an intense inner drive to transcend the mortal appetites and emotional weaknesses. A witness to the attack reported on what Roof said during the shooting.

... A survivor of the mass killing had told her Roof said he “had to” keep shooting, as another churchgoer attempted to talk him out of firing his weapon while he reloaded.

“He just said, ‘I have to do it,’” she said. “‘You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go,’” she said.  [Source]

Compelled to bring their inner and outer lives into order, they pride themselves on being able to bring a high level of control to their emotional life.  Emotions, in their mind, cloud judgement and weaken resolve to do what is right in a stressful situation.  We see Dylann say more than a couple times, "I have to do this."  In his manifesto, we see the exasperation frequently exhibited by Ones for having to correct the world's "wrongs" by themselves:

“I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight... We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the Internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”

Dylann later admitted that he almost didn't go through with the killings because the Bible study members were so nice to him- a way out that a low-functioning One would see as a trap.  The irony for a One is that by adhering to rationality as their standard at the cost of their emotional lives, they end up making very irrational decisions that isolate them further and further from society.  

Because anger has a negative association with Ones, they rarely acknowledge their anger- instead they experience it as energy that compels them to action.  Gandhi was also a type One, but by acknowledging and embracing his anger, he was able to do great work:

I have learnt through bitter experience the one supreme lesson: to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into a power which can move the world. (Mohandas K. Gandhi, The Words of Gandhi, quoted in Personality Types by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson)

  The Type One archetype in Homer's Odyssey is represented by the Phaeacians of Scheria, the second last stop on his way home.  The Phaeacians are described as "disciplined and proper, orderly and conventional" to the point of being judgemental and "bloodless do-gooders".   From  The Complete Enneagram  by Beatrice Chestnut.  Image from navigatingtheodyssey.pbworks.com. 

The Type One archetype in Homer's Odyssey is represented by the Phaeacians of Scheria, the second last stop on his way home.  The Phaeacians are described as "disciplined and proper, orderly and conventional" to the point of being judgemental and "bloodless do-gooders".  From The Complete Enneagram by Beatrice Chestnut.  Image from navigatingtheodyssey.pbworks.com. 

Social media was also critical last week about how the police handled him, a white man, during his arrest, as opposed to how black people have been brought into custody.  Certainly, if you watch the dashcam video of his arrest in Shelby, NC, it has to be one of the gentlest arrests of a mass murderer out there. 

It is possible that having gone all the way for the sake of "perfection", he was finally able to get some relief from his superego, and therefore was in a very calm state at the time of arrest.  On the other hand, and this is probably equally true, but his terrifyingly cold stare into the camera was probably a look into the smugness in a low-functioning One, based on the belief that they alone can see a standard of perfection that the rest of the world is too cowardly to acknowledge, and only he had what it took to do the deed.  He has made no appology to date, which shows just how out of sync he is with reality.


If you feel that you might be a type One, some things to watch out for are a sense of superiority that you have a higher moral code than your peers, and especially "numbing out" when you feel yourself going into correct a colleague's mistakes.  A mindfulness practice will help you stay in  touch with your body when your ego starts aligning with your superego.  You are not your superego- that's an important distinction to make.  My guess is that when Dylann committed those murders, he was very out of touch with his physical sensations.  Recognizing the whole self as worthy and necessary to being a full human being-- the physical, mental, and emotional-- is one of the first steps to healing for Dylann and all the world's Ones.

 

*Only you can really type yourself, as you alone know what's going on inside your head, so I'm suggesting a Type 1 for Dylann based on what I'm seeing, but I'm opening to changing my view as more information emerges.

I'm pretty sure Amy Schumer Meant to Say Something a Tad more Nuanced

Amy Schumer wrote a skit for Bill Nye, and it's funny but not funny.  Here it is. 

I love Amy's sharp mind- that girl has been on fire lately with her skits, and I have all the respect in the world for Bill Nye, although I don't know him that well.  I just know he's a comedian-scientist who explains things to the public, and I'm all over that. 

When I saw this skit, though, I was a bit dismayed.  On the one hand, I agree that the affirmations movement started by Louise Hay in the late 1970's to "claim" support from the universe can be miscontrued to mean we can take in bits and pieces of reality and reject other, more glaring ones, in response to which Bill Nye says sarcastically, "We now know the universe is essentially a force sending cosmic guidance to white women in their 20s."

Ha.  Amy and her girlfriend just show us how spiritually retarded the West is, but that doesn't mean we need to quash the impulse behind trying to make sense of life's tangled strands.

 Amy Schumer in The Universe, Uncensored.

Amy Schumer in The Universe, Uncensored.

What this skit does is completely flatten the mystery of the starry night sky and our millenia-old connection to and fascination with it.  Nye and Schumer wave their hand in the face of the complex understanding that the first peoples had of the planets and stars that kept time and anchored stories for thousands of years.  The heavenly bodies and their stories essentially provided the means of survival for the human race, allowing it to progress from nomads and shepherds to civilizations who farmed and experimented with animal husbandry, giving way to civilizations who brought us philosophy, mathematics, logic, morality, and art, which eventually gave way to the development of the three major mystic traditions, Christian mysticism in the tradition of the Desert Fathers, Kaballah from Judaism, and Sufism from the Muslim heritage.  The universe was found to have spiritual laws before rationality was even beheld by Socrates.  Rationality is underutilized today by certain personality types, and overutilized by others.  We all need a balance of the two to exist with integrity in this world. 

Carl Jung talks about the ying and yang of the divine masculine (knowledge) and divine feminine (context).  The former Catholic monk, Thomas Moore, says reason and ego can only take us so far.  They CAN take us far, and we need that element, but the wisdom, -- and the emptiness of the other side of the wisdom-- is also needed. 

No one wants to appear foolish, so we use our rationality to defend ourselves from the unknown, but we all know people who have been forced into the unknown with an uncurable illness or a divorce, and any transformation that has taken place in the lives of those survivors has come because they embraced the unknown, the mystery, that which is not defined, the vaccuum.

This blog is a call for a conscious "staying" with the discomfort around the paradox of reason and science on the one hand; and mystery and ancient wisdom on the other.  As long as we have one without the other, we're incomplete beings. 

I don't blame Amy for making fun of people using random t-shirts as signs to validate their immoral behavior.  But I disagree with how she used Bill Nye to invalidate any use of mystery at all.  Poking fun of those who don't know how to read the signs of the universe is kind of funny, but let's not do it at the expense of the "yin".   Any ignorance around it needs to be met with sane formal and information education on how to use it, so we can not only become more intelligent about the universe, but also operate more intelligently within the universe.

Disambiguation Day

I've been meaning to do this for a while: look up the definition for all these H-words that sound so similar.

Hermetic/Hermetical:    

when in lower-case: "airtight, isolated, not affected by outside influences" (dictionary.com)

Hermetics/Hermeticism:

  Hermes Trismegistus, the syncretized purveyor of a movement that characterized the 3rd to 7th centuries, and influenced the shaping of Christianity, and scientists through to Isaac Newton.  It is possible that he was a combination of the Greek god Hermes, and Egyptian god Toth.   Image from Wikipedia.

Hermes Trismegistus, the syncretized purveyor of a movement that characterized the 3rd to 7th centuries, and influenced the shaping of Christianity, and scientists through to Isaac Newton.  It is possible that he was a combination of the Greek god Hermes, and Egyptian god Toth.  Image from Wikipedia.

when in upper case: "of, relating to, or characteristic of occult science, especially alchemy."  OR relating to Hermes Trismegistus or his writings. (dictionary.com)

Hermetic Qabalah:

a syncretism of Kabbalah within Hermeticism (wikipedia).  (Totally random, but I saw it on the Wikipedia disambiguation page and couldn't resist including it here.  Oh my god, does it ever sound interesting).

Hermenutics:

"the theory and methodology of text interpretation" (wikipedia).  I heard this word thrown around a lot in Bible College.  I may even taken a class in Biblical Hermenutics without even stopping to ask myself what Hermeneutics even meant.  Now we know.


From Ancient Times to Modern Times

I was listening to Helen Palmer give the keynote talk at the 2013 International Enneagram Conference in Denver again this morning.  She was one of the earliest people to start teaching the Enneagram in the U.S. in the 1980's, I believe.  The second person, in fact.  She's a professor of Psychology at the J.F.K School of Consciousness. 

"Terra non est centra mundi"

The best quote I've heard all month came from Paul Holdengraber, the director of public programs at the New York Library who said that he approached all his subjects with "a euphoria of ignorance", which is exactly how I feel about my course.  Like him, I'm producing Science and Alchemy School because I'm fascinated by the topic, and I'm excited to have some really great speakers enlighten us as we learn how two profound systems of inner growth-- astrology and the Enneagram-- are modeled in our planetary system, and how, in turn, we are, in our biological make-up, products our planetary system.  We belong to each other.  Not only is the universe's unfolding a fascinating story, but it's the cradle for our own psychological unfolding, and as both narratives come together in the 21st century, enabled by technology and research, there is also profound meaning.  Science and mysticism are revealing themselves to be intertwined in fascinating ways in our modern-day universe, so these are exciting times.

Another quote I heard this week was from Russ Hudson's talk on the historical context of the Enneagram.  "It takes time for ideas to cook."  That's an understatement.  In about 150 AD, a Alexandrian astronomer, astrologer, and mathematician named Ptolemy wrote Almagest, which became the standard textbook on astronomy for generations of students to come.  Indeed, for the next 1200 years, it held its place as the authority on the planets and stars, how they moved around the earth, which was the centre of the universe. 

  Nicolaus Copernicus, a Polish cleric.  His ideas weren't accepted until centuries after he died.   Image from Wikipedia.

Nicolaus Copernicus, a Polish cleric.  His ideas weren't accepted until centuries after he died.  Image from Wikipedia.

It took a man named Nicolaus Copernicus in the mid-sixteenth century to get the gumption- and the science together- to challenge Ptolemy's ideas, and his resulting book was ignored by the Church.  Copernicus was a Polish cleric who studied religious law, medicine and astrology, (since it shed light on the nature of his patients' illnesses), and as he did so, found that Ptolemy's calculation tables were a little cumbersome.  Over the course of his adult life, he developped a heliocentric model of the universe, and his ideas didn't become accepted until the 19th century. 

Talk about taking a while for ideas to cook.  Yesterday, Joanne Wilson profiled a city in South Korea that decided to go without cars in one particular neighborhood for one month.  It took TWO YEARS to convince everyone to get on board.  People just didn't think it could be done. 

I love new ideas.  I soak them up, although sure I get threatened by my fair share of them.  But I like to stay ahead of the curve as much as possible so I'm never taken by surprise. 

The Ball that the Greeks Dropped

 The law of three is an example of one of the lost principles of the Western tradition that the Greeks didn't pass on from the Egyptians. 

The law of three is an example of one of the lost principles of the Western tradition that the Greeks didn't pass on from the Egyptians. 

Because it's almost due at the library, I'm reviewing Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife.  I feel like the book is underrated in its importance.  It got a few remarkably ho-hum reviews from Scientific American and The New York Times when it came out in 2000, but in my view it deserves way more credit.  I don't know if Seife has a mystical bent, but to me, it lends itself to breaking down a big wall between Westerners and their souls.

As you might recall, I learnt about the Enneagram at a monastery in Winnipeg 4.5 years ago from a scholar who is little-known in the Enneagram community, David Walsh.  The context that he gave the Enneagram fascinated me, and that weekend has been emblazoned in my memory for the uniqueness of his approach.  He came at the Enneagram (which is a personality-typing system with a mystical side) from the point of view of the Classics- Pythagoras, Plato, the Enneads and the Divine Forms all led up to the modern-day Enneagram we know today.  (That he and his wife are retiring after teaching the Enneagram for 30+ years without passing on their knowledge to a successor is incredible to me and blows my mind.  I called him earlier this year in January to see if he'd be willing to talk about any of the Classical references further, and he declined politely.) 

Russ Hudson, one of the world's most renowned Enneagram teachers today also comes at it from a Classics point of view, but doesn't get into the Greek contribution as much.  His love affair is with Egypt, who gave the Greeks their ontology.  But we can explain a lot by how today's Western society got its flavor by looking at the Greeks, and that's exactly what Seife does in his book about the number zero, and the Greek philosophers' aversion to the idea it represented.  They limited their numeral system to the numbers 1 to 9 because of scariness of the idea of the void.  If it's possible to have a vaccuum, then the earth may not be the centre of the universe, and what does that mean for the "specialness" of mankind?  Early Greek philosophers worked their way around it, enabling Christianity to subsequently fudge its way around it until the Church was finally forced to deal with it after the dark ages, and it was actually Judaism that showed Christianity a way to work it into its theology. 

Islam and Hinduism were comfortable with zero.  Muslims were using it in their number system via algebra, and Hindus had been grappling with nothingness already way before Algebra came on the scene.

My argument is that the Enneagram's purpose was-- and is-- to show Westerners how to deal with their inner void, if you will.  That's why Enneagram teacher and historian Russ Hudson follows up Gurdjieff's quote, "The earth can only be saved when the energy of the West meets the wisdom of the East", with "But the West isn't ready to meet the East because we don't even know our own mystical traditions, so when we meet, how can we have a coherent conversation?"

When Westerners have been given the tools for approaching -- and integrating-- their inner void, they can start to solve some of the most intractable issues the world faces like terrorism, global warming, and growing divide between the rich and poor.  But until we have the emotional intelligence to approach that void, we'll just keep ramming the same truck into the same brick wall hoping for the same results. 

Seife's book outlines how poorly our post-Egyptian Western heritage handled the idea of the infinity and the void.  I propose that heritage is still having its effects on Westerners' mindset -- and therefore policy -- today.