Parables and the Enneagram (by Clarence Thomson)

I didn't know the name Clarence Thomson before reading this book; he is a Catholic theologian and a businessman, with a deep interest in the Enneagram system of personality typing, which is explained in some detail at his Enneagram site. Not that the test is particularly accurate!

The Enneagram proposes that there are nine basic personality types, each of which has one deep fixation (or 'sin'- seven of them relate to the classical seven deadly sins) that make us see the world in a distorted way. Since we grow up with this distortion, it's as if we're in a kind of trance, seeing things only from our perspective. The healthier we are psychologically, the better able we are to move beyond our trances.

The book 'Parables and the Enneagram' was recommended on a mailing list I'm on. It's a very interesting book, starting with the assumption that all the Biblical parables, and many of Jesus' other comments and actions were not intended as advice, or even inspiration, but were simply intended to tilt people's world views: to help them set aside, if only for a moment, their Enneagram fixation and move out of the trance.

I suppose it's obvious that the parables are not good advice. What shepherd, after all would actually leave behind ninety-nine sheep on the hillside while searching for one that got lost? What businessman would employ people for different hours and then pay them all exactly the same wages?

We tend to see the parables as stories - as metaphors for life, perhaps, or to show how God's Kingdom is different from the kingdoms of the world. But Clarence Thomson sees them as intended for people of different Enneagram types; certainly not literal and not even metaphorical as such, but wake-up calls to help people throw aside their fixations for a while.

His examples make a lot of sense. After the first introductory chapter, he examines each type in turn and the parables or incidents in Jesus' life that he believes were intended for people with this type. I thought they all seemed appropriate and could see his point of view, even if I didn't full agree with everything he said.

Definitely recommended for anyone who knows something about the Enneagram, whether or not they are Christians.

Review copyright © Sue's Book Reviews, 20th June 2008

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