02/03/2009

Head versus Heart and our Gut Reactions: The 21st Century Enneagram (by Michael Hampson)

Michael Hampson trained as an Anglican clergyman in the UK, and has written a few controversial books, challenging traditional viewpoints of God, and criticising the Anglican church - which, apparently, he has now left.

However, I did not know any of this when, about six months ago, I started reading 'Head versus heart and our gut reactions', his book about the Enneagram from a Christian viewpoint. The author looks at how the Enneagram diagram develops from three 'zones' we all have - head, heart and 'gut'- and the strategies we use, leading to nine 'types'.

I've read quite a few books on the topic of the Enneagram, but have never previously come across one that explains how the nine types develop, and what the relationships are between them. The author goes quite deeply into the security and stress points, and explains why certain relationships are likely to work better than others, although of course a great deal depends on the mental and emotional health level of each individual.

There are examples of Biblical characters who seem to show the characteristics of each of the nine types. There's also a fascinating insight into how the Lord's Prayer can be said, considering each Enneagram type in turn, as well as short prayers and longer 'confessions' from the point of view of each of the types. There's mention, too, of how Jesus is the one person who had none of the Enneagram 'sins' and all the best of the qualities of all nine types.

At the end of the book there is an appendix which looks at how the Enneagram pattern fits into such diverse activities as farming, politics, and the church year. I found these sections a little difficult to swallow, I have to admit, and did not entirely understand them.

Still, overall I found the book fascinating and will no doubt dip into it again in future. It certainly confirmed my own type in my mind ('Nine') and I was particularly challenged by the prayer and confession from the perspective of a type Nine.

It took me over six months to finish the book because I put it on one side and forgot about it, after getting about half way through. I found I couldn't read more than a few pages at a time, since there was so much to think about.

If you know nothing about the Enneagram, it's probably better to start with one of the simpler books or relevant web-sites, since this isn't a 'beginner' book. But if you know a bit about the Enneagram, and particularly if you were wondering if it was compatible with the Christian faith, then I would certainly recommend this book.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 2nd March 2009

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