The Living Enneagram pt. 1


The enneagram is an intriguing symbol. It was introduced to the world by George Gurdjieff in the 1920’s. Since then, it has rippled throughout the world in various ways. The most detailed account of Gurdjieff’s description is found in In Search of the Miraculous by P.D. Ouspenky.

Gurdjieff never mentions the enneagram in his own writings. Perhaps he alludes to it, but it is never approached directly the way it is approached in the writings of his followers. The enneagram as they describe it is an occult tool. A device upon which their minds could ponder endlessly.

It appears that to Gurdjieff the enneagram was akin to a phenomenological blueprint that can be used to describe anything and its relationships within itself and with anything else.

The Octave

The circle represents a complete phenomenon. In essence ANYTHING that is, is a phenomenal entity. Gurdjieff referred to any whole thing comprised of discreet parts as an octave. The circle could represent an event, a person, a period of time.


Every octave is comprised of three separate worlds that are each individual unto themselves but could not exist without the others. Each of these parts of the octave are themselves octaves in their own right.

For instance

All retail and service stores need a back of the house or storeroom, a sales floor to display the products on, and a service department to sell the product.

In a restaurant

there’s a kitchen staff, a dining room staff, and then a management staff

In the enneagram, and in the philosophers Stone, these three separate worlds are depicted by the addition of a triangle to the circle.

Philosopher Stone
Philosopher Stone

The law of Three should seem familiar to just about everybody. The concept of the Trinity is buried in nearly every religion on Earth. Theology aside, humanity appears to have a tendency to break things down into three. Aristotle wasn’t the first but his observations in Rhetoric, brought the concept of the law of three out of  the sphere of speculation and stated that it’s a human condition or a function of nature.

The Law of Three assumes that ALL things are composed of three separate but inter-related phenomena. The Law of Three resting inside of the octave divides our Enneagram into three separate phenomena.

Gurdjieff borrows from the science of Phenomenology itself in his attempt to describe how an enneagram works.

Gurdjieffs Three Minds

Consider all of our thoughts as a whole octave and separate them into three very different types of thoughts. Each kind of thought completely independent of the other two and yet it would require all three of them to create an entire thought process.

Three Minds
Three Minds

In this categorization of thoughts, the thoughts are delineated as thinking, moving, and emotional.

Thinking thoughts - Thinking thoughts are the thoughts that we typically label as "thinking." Thinking thoughts are the thoughts that we ponder, reason, and rationalize with.
Moving thoughts - Moving thoughts are thoughts involved with experiencing the physical world
Emotional thoughts - Emotional thoughts are thoughts concerned with experiencing the inner world of the body. 

a complete phenomena

An octave can be separated into three in many different ways. If our octave described a building for instance. We can describe our building by each floor; first, second, and third. We can describe our building by occupancy; tenants, maintenance, and property management. We could separate it by businesses type; manufacturing, retailing and sales.

An octave describes a thing with the understanding that everything exists in some sort of state of change. Even a block of wood is not just a thing, it is always changing in some manner and interacting with the world. A building may just be a bunch of cement, but it has a life. Just ask an architect or an engineer who repairs or builds such structures and maintains them. They will tell you a building breaths, grows and shrinks. They are not the most conscious thing around, but a building has a phenomenal life.


Philosopher Stone Yin Yang
Philosopher Stone Yin Yang

The triangle and the circle together in their most basic sense describe the laws of causality.

Causality is the laws of cause and effect. In the theory of cause and effect there should be an unending series of causes and effects that go from this moment back to the beginning of everything. A single cause that set all into motion, all the way back to our big bang.

A symbol like the yin yang explains cause and effect eloquently. The cause and effect in this manner is an endless repetition. By adding the third force we can describe endless changes.

Each of the points on the triangle represents a shock that takes place in relationship to that which we are observing. The two most fundamental aspects of each shock are whether it is automatic or intentional and did it come from within oneself or from the world without. As long as there are shocks coming from the world and the body is able to sense them there will exist the spiraling of phenomena represented by the circle.

5-Space Time

Philosopher Stone Symmetry A
Philosopher Stone Symmetry A

For something to happen it has to happen somewhere. After something happens somewhere it is only a matter of time before the next thing happens afterwards. By applying specific events to parts of our triangle the entire symbol now reflects events in space and time.

The points of the triangle represent events that are happening. The circle connecting the points indicates the series of events and the changes between them. With these two concepts combined our octave can now be seen as being in motion. A diagram of a living thing going through the changes the events will bring about.

The octave is now a spiral that is ascending or descending. Our octave does not end at the exact point that it started. as the image above shows, it’ smore like a spiral that goes on forever. A new octave will begin and continue this line, or a new octave will start at any point and begin an entirely new octave of phenomena. This can go on forever as the octave receives new shocks from the events at 3,6, and 9. In a quite literal way, the symbol can now represent a living thing.

The red arrow that connects the two points is an imaginary connection created in our mind. That is a phenomenon of the mind, that can perceive the beginning and the end and the various points in between. An enneagram may describe a block of wood, but the block of wood is missing the experience of itself, it is not conscious.

The law of Seven

Six Sided Figure
Six Sided Figure

The six-pointed figure that weaves between the philosopher stone represents the conditions that must unfold within the octave to maintain the octave’s structure or the continuation of the phenomena. The figure is properly read by following the arrows, 142857.

This figure shows us the character of the octave. While points 3,6, and 9 shows us the interactions with the world without the six-sided figure depicts in the interior relationships between those three events. These are like lines of communication between the three worlds within the octave, that need to be open and functioning properly to allow the octave to unfold and evolve fully.

To get a grip on this we’re going to look at how we think. Let’s see if we can link up 142857 inside of the octaves 3,6, and 9.

Cross Communication Between our three Worlds

Let’s take our octave and separate it into worlds one two and three, by creating the philosopher’s Stone. And then we set our 142857 shape over that. And as we draw in that shape think of it as communication from one world to the next.

It shows us that there isn’t really free communication between all three worlds. 142 are connected on one side 857 are connected on the other. The only way world’s A and C can communicate is by sending messages to B and hoping it passes through. The connection from 2 to 8 and 7 to 1 cross each other. They go from such a high level to such a low level and they cross lines so that the information does not come through well.

These three things combined into the symbol is much like an artist using foreground midground and background in their painting. Standing too close or too far away makes one of those areas stand out. But by finding the proper position all three blend together into a homogeneous whole that expresses the concept.

Learning the mechanics of the symbol is not as complicated as mastering and understanding of the thing one is trying to represent with the symbol. That is to say if you don’t understand the thing that you’re trying to describe with your enneagram, you won’t be able to do it. Someone who is better or has more understanding of the subject matter will be able put it in the enneagram in a more masterful way.

If this symbol was used for nothing more than to gauge ones understanding of the subject at hand. Then this would still be a very powerful tool. There’s no shortage of people who think they know something, who if they just tried to plug what they know into the symbol would quickly discover they only know half of what they thought they knew.