This post is also available in: Français
History of the enneagram
Bernadette and Frederic Schmitt
From Enneagram Monthly, issue 215, March 2015
In the 1950’s, Oscar Ichazo (born in Bolivia in 1931) was invited to participate in a study group of high-ranking European and Oriental mystics in Buenos Aires, Argentina, composed of Martinists, Theosophists, Rosicrucians and Anthroposophists. Ichazo served them coffee, and they taught him Kabbalah, Sufism, Yoga, Zen and techniques from the Gurdjieff work. (see also EM issues 21, 22, and 23)
“This was around 1950, and (one) man invited me to Buenos Aires, where I was involved with a group of mystics, many of whom were seventy or eighty years old when I met them. . . . None of them was South American. They were Europeans or from the Middle East” (Extract from “Interviews with Oscar Ichazo, a 1982 Arica Institute publication”).
According to Claudio Naranjo, Ichazo said specifically that he was handed the whole Tradition that is spread in many branches around the world in various cultures. He was given “the whole works” and the mission of translating it into Western terms.
One of the only names Ichazo has ever mentioned publicly as a teacher and source for him, is Leo Costet de Mascheville, a French spiritual teacher. Who was this man, and how could he be implicated in the genesis of the enneagram?
Leo Costet de Mascheville
We begin the story with his Father, Albert Raymond Costet-Conde de Mascheville (1872 -1943) born in Valence, France.
In 1895 at the age of 23 he became a Delegate of the Supreme Council of the Martinist Order founded by Papus (his real name: Dr. Gerard Encausse, a French medical doctor who founded the Martinist Order-L’ordre Martiniste- in 1887).
1901: birth of his son, Leo Costet de Mascheville (1901-1970) in France.
In 1910 he and his family left France and moved to Argentina arriving on February 26, 1910 in Buenos Aires.
In 1920 Albert Costet initiated his son Leo into the Martinist Order.
Léo Costet de Masheville
Albert Costet sends his son Leo to France on a special mission to re-connect with the Traditional Esoteric Orders of Martinism and the Kabalístic Rosy-Cross.
On March 22, 1927 Albert Costet is made Delegate of the Supreme Council of the Martinist Order of Papus, and starts the Order Kabalistica of the Rosy-Cross in the city of Curitiba, (Brazil).
1932: Leo Costet is transferred (probably on advice of his father) to Montevideo (Uruguay) and founds the esoteric study group GIDEE (Groupe d’études ésotériques) based on the Martinist Order of Papus..
In 1936 Albert Costet moves to Sao Paulo, and appoints his son as President of the Martinist-Order.
On December 23, 1939, the Constitution of the Martinist Order of South America is proclaimed in Porte Alegre, Brazil uniting all Martinists of Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay.
1941: Leo Costet de Mascheville becomes “Sri Sevananda swami” and his Indian guru Subrahmanyananda makes him his the successor in the lineage of Suddha Dharma.
1949: Leo Costet founded “l’association mystique occidentale-Western Mystical Association” in Montevideo (Urugay) which soon became a center for convergence of different spiritual streams such as Suddha Dharma, Osiris Egyptian Ritual, Ramakrishna Ashram from Kriya Yoga, Sufi, Martinist Order, Maîtreya Mahasangah, Rose-Croix Order, Bodhi Dharma Zen,…
1953: he went to Resende, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), where he acquired a very large area to establish an Ashram that became famous in Brazil and all over the world.
Everything is in concordance indicating that it was this group of mystics in Buenos Aires in which Ichazo was included, this group created by Albert and then led by Leo Costet de Mascheville \.
Given that the Maschevilles were the representatives of the Martinist Order in South America, it’s interesting to trace back the sources of this teachings to its beginning with Papus.
Papus and the Martinist Order
Papus (1865-1916) founded the Martinist Order in 1887. He was deeply immersed with the European occultist spring and publicly claimed to be the depository of the teaching of the “initiate” Louis-Claude de Saint Martin (1743-1803) who in turn gave credit for his teachings to Martinès de Pasqually (1727-1774). The name “Martinist” came from the name of “Saint Martin” but de Pasqually was the real inspirer of the Martinist Order.
To emphasize the importance of the Kabbalah in the Martinist Order, here’s an excerpt from their French website (http://www.martiniste.org): “Kabbalah is the book of the occult tradition of Israel. It should be in the hands of every man who wishes to deepen the mystery of life, who wonders what the origin and destiny of the existence is, and would like to explore the realm of the invisible to understand relations with the visible world.”
It’s important to know that Kabbalah as taught by the Martinist Order as well as different European esoteric and occultist movements is not the Jewish Kabbalah but a more syncretic form usually called Christian Kabbalah.
In 1174, the publication of a strange and enigmatic text in Southern France known as the Bahir was by most commentators, ancient and modern, regarded as the true beginning of Kabbalah. Attempts to establish its authorship or provenance have been largely unsuccessful. The main focus for Kabbalah then moved to Northern Spain, where its salient conceptions attained a stable form, culminating in the publication of the most important and influential of Kabbalistic texts, the Zohar. Moses de León (c. 1250 – 1305) the Spanish rabbi and Kabbalist is thought to have been its author or redactor. The Zohar is a group of books including commentary on the mystical aspects of the Torah (the five books of Moses) and scriptural interpretations as well as material on mysticism, mythical cosmogony and mystical psychology.
Christian Kabbalah sometimes called the Renaissance or philosophical Kabbalah is a Christian philosophical current inaugurated by Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494) who adapted Kabbalah to Christianity. Della Mirandola was an excellent Neoplatonist during the Italian Renaissance. He could not only speak and write in Latin and Greek, but he also was immensely knowledgeable in Hebrew and Arabic languages. The pope banned his works because they were viewed as heretical. According to Della Mirandola, Kabbalah was a system capable of unraveling the mysteries of Christianity.
Pico della Mirandola had several Kabbalist Masters, mainly Jewish converted to Christianity. Jews were moved from 1477 onwards and in 1492 there was a massive deportation from Spain. The Christians had given Jews the choice between forced departure or conversion, and although conversion put them into a very precarious situation many ended up choosing it and continued the study what now had become the “Old Testament “– but they had to be much more discreet about the elements of the Kabbalistic tradition.
Translations of Jewish and Kabbalistic texts were made by several Jewish converts, for example, Samuel ben Nissim Abulfarash, better known by his after conversion name Flavius Mithridates. He translated more than 3000 pages of works from Hebrew that became the Kabbalistic library for Pico della Mirandola. Mithridates, as well as other Christian Kabbalists later, sought to convince the Pope that he could prove Christian truths with the Kabbalah. There is no doubt that it was also Mithriades who translated more specialized works for the teaching of Pico della Mirandola; he also presented the book of the Sepher ha-Bahir to Pico who studied it in its original language.
Many non-Jewish writers wrote books on Kabbalah like Johann Reuchlin (1455-1522) who published two works on Kabbalah, De Verbo Mirifico (in 1494, mixture of Neoplatonism, Kabbalah and Hermeticism) and De Arte Cabbalistica. In a letter to Pope Leo X, Reuchlin justified the importance of Kabbalah by claiming that Pythagoras, well-spring of the Platonic tradition, was instructed by Hebrews. One of the characteristics of Christian Kabbalah was that it was very much an intellectual tradition, and lacked the ecstatic traditions of Jewish Kabbalah, or integration with traditional religious practices.
Kabbalah influenced an important circle of intellectuals in the 17th century. At the center of this circle was Christan Knorr von Rosenroth who translated some of the most enigmatic parts of the Zohar and several other Kabbalistic documents, and published them as Kabbalah Denudata (Kabbalah Unveiled). Kabbalah was popularized during the 19th century by the French occult writer Eliphas Levi (Alphonse Louis Constant 1810-1875). Eliphas Levi had a strong intellectual influence on Papus, evidenced by his book “La Kabbale tradition secrète de l’Occident (Kabbalah: the secret western tradition).”
If Christian Kabbalah is a tentative to apply Kabbalah in the context of Christianity, it also has many neo-Platonist sources.
Neoplatonism (or Neo-Platonism) is a philosophical doctrine developed in Rome since 232 by Ammonius Saccas and mainly by Plotinus, whose last representative was Damascius, in 544.
Christians were influenced by Neoplatonism. The most influential of these would be Origen of Alexandria (c. 185-250 AD), the pupil of Ammonius Saccas and the fifth-century author known as Pseudo-Dionysius the Aeropagite.
For Origen “all souls pre-existed with their Creator in a perfect, spiritual (non-material) state as “minds” or noûs (philosophical intelligence), but later fell away in order to pursue an existence independent of God. Since all souls were created absolutely free, God could not simply force them to return to Him (this was, according to Origen, due to God’s boundless love and respect for His creatures). Instead, God created the material cosmos, and initiated history, for the purpose of guiding the wayward souls back to contemplation of His infinite mind, which is, according to Origen, the perfect state” (Wikipedia).
Evagrius Ponticus, also called Evagrius the Solitary (345-399 AD), was a neo-Platonist Christian monk strongly influenced by Origen, and one of the most influential theologians in the late fourth-century church. The most prominent feature of his research was a system of categorizing various forms of temptation. He developed a comprehensive list in AD 375 of eight evil thoughts (logismoi), from which all sinful behavior springs. This list was intended to serve a diagnostic purpose: to help readers identify the process of temptation, their own strengths and weaknesses, and the remedies available for overcoming temptation. Evagrius stated, “The first thought of all is that of love of self; after this, the eight”
Origen’s thought was declared heretical by the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 AD. Although Evagrius is not mentioned by name in the Council’s 15 anathematisms, in the eyes of most contemporaries, the 553 Council did indeed condemn Evagrius, together with Origen and Didymus.
In one of Evagrius’ treatise (On the Vices Opposed to the Virtues, in the Greek Ascetic Corpus) we find the addition of a ninth vice to the usual list of eight: jealousy is inserted between vainglory and pride. Evagrius holds these three to be intimately related. Such a list of nine vices is not found elsewhere in Evagrius, although he does discuss jealousy at various points, and with some prominence in the treatise Etilogios, where he closely associates it with the vice of vainglory.
Evagrius divides the nine Logismoi (vices) in three groups which corresponds in the human being to the three sectors of the soul described in the Greek philosophy: concupiscible (epithemya), irascible (thymos) and rationale (noûs).
- Concupiscible gives the three passions for eating, sexuality and possessions.
- Irascible gives into three passions for sadness, anger and acedia.
- Rationale gives the three passions for vain glory, envy and pride (hybris).
For Plato the three parts of the soul reside in the three centers of the body, the noûs in the head, the thymos (anger) in the heart and the epithymia (cravings) in the belly.
|Repartition of the nine Logismoi in Evagrius work|
|Avarice||Freedom from possession Generosity|
|Acedia (weariness of heart)||Perseverance|
|Vainglory||Freedom from vainglory|
|Jealousy||Freedom from jealousy Charity|
In the Latin world, the influence of Evagrius was preserved and propagated by one of his most faithful disciples, John Cassian,, who presented the basic elements of Evagrius’ teaching on the stages of the monastic life, tripartite anthropology, and the eight thoughts (although Cassian never mentions Evagrius by name, since his reputation had been already tainted). Through Cassian, Evagrius’ thought passed to Gregory the Great, and the Evagrian schema of eight generic thoughts afflicting the monks of Egypt was transformed into a list now famous as the Seven “Deadly” Sins. Portions of the Monastic Rule of St. Benedict repeated almost word for word certain texts of Cassian, and also recommends that it must be extended by reading the Conferences of the fathers and the Institutions of Cassien. Then as now, Christian monks of the West consider Cassian as one of the major masters of monastic life, who helped the West benefit from the rich experience of the first monks of the East.
The influence of Greek philosophical thought upon the development in the Kabbalah, particularly of Plato and Neo-Platonism, has long been recognized. Neoplatonism was adapted and adopted by many Jewish thinkers. One of the most illustrious representatives was Isaac the blind in 1180, Ibn Latif in 1300, Moses de Leon (author of the Zohar in 1280); Leon Hebrew, with his Dialogues of love (1503) performs the “synthesis of Neoplatonism and Kabbalah” (P. Behar). Probably the most important Platonic notion to find its way into Kabbalistic thought is the doctrine of forms or ideas. The Kabbalistic doctrine of the ten Sefirot is, thus, a world of Judaeo-Platonic forms, understood by the Kabbalists to be the value archetypes through which God created and structured the cosmos. In holding that both God and creation are comprised of such values as “will”, “wisdom”, “understanding”, “kindness”, “justice”, and “beauty” the Kabbalists placed the Platonic doctrine of ideas at the core of their own theosophy.
The platonic and Aristotelian notion of vices and virtues was integrated in all the neoplatonist schools of thought. It’s such an important factor in the enneagram of Ichazo that we will deepen this notion a little bit.”Aristotle describes ethical virtue as a “hexis” (“state” “condition” “disposition”)—a tendency or disposition, induced by our habits, to have appropriate feelings. Defective states of character are hexeis (plural of hexis) as well, but they are tendencies to have inappropriate feelings. In Plato’s early dialogues, virtue is nothing but a kind of knowledge and vice nothing but a lack of knowledge. Furthermore, every ethical virtue is a condition intermediate between two other states, one involving excess, and the other deficiency. In this respect, Aristotle says, the virtues are no different from technical skills: every skilled worker knows how to avoid excess and deficiency, and works in a condition somewhere between two extremes. The courageous person, for example, judges that some dangers are worth facing and others not, and experiences fear to a degree that is appropriate to his circumstances. He operates in a balanced way between the coward, who flees every danger and experiences excessive fear, and the rash person, who judges every danger worth facing and experiences little or no fear. Aristotle holds that this same topography applies to every ethical virtue: all are located on a map that places the virtues between states of excess and deficiency”( Aristotle’s Ethics, http://plato.stanford.edu). We will come back to this notion later.
Pico Della Mirandola
Among one of the typical syncretic view of the neo-Kabbalists, we can see the nine angelic choirs of the Christian tradition, connected to the nine planets, the nine sephitoth of the Jewish Kabbalah and the nine vices and virtues of the neo-Platonic tradition, as follows:
This listing of vices and virtues is not to be taken as absolute as it can differ from one author to another. It’s more or less the same as the nine logismoi of Evagrius.
Birth of enneagram
If we keep Evagrius’ schema, it’s very easy to make a correspondence between the three parts of the soul and the three centers of the enneagram, the nine vices/virtues and the nine points of enneagram. We keep Evagrius’ original order and beginning with the number seven counter clockwise on the circle of the enneagram:
Desire and gut (neo-Platonist)
Mental center (Enneagram)
Anger and heart (neo-Platonist)
Reason and head (neo-Platonist)
Instinct center (Enneagram)
|1||Vain Glory||Freedom from vainglory|
|9||Jealousy||Freedom from jealousy|
Oscar Ichazo is directly coming from this cultural and theological background and we can see evidence that the backbone of Ichazo’s enneagram is clearly neo-Kabbalistic.
In neo-Kabbalah, enneagram is already prefigured: three centers, nine vices, nine virtues. So the emergence of Ichazo’s enneagram is quite easy to grasp. Ichazo was very familiar with the Gurdjieff nine-pointed figure and the teaching of the Kabbalah, so connecting the two was a challenge to him.
The key words of Ichazo’s enneagram are almost the same (as those of Evagrius) but in a different order.
But there is another level: according to Claudio Naranjo and John Lilly, he was still acting under the direction of his own teachers.
For instance (according to Naranjo), Ichazo was given the “order” by his teachers to go to Arica, Chile, and teach there. Naranjo also believed that Ichazo seemed to be in contact with his own teachers, but they weren’t in Chile.
A story also circulated that, after one of his original teachers had died, Ichazo had taken his position as one of the heads of the School and began his teaching mission.
Ichazo founded Arica School in 1968 and begin his teaching in July 1970. However, Leo Costet de Mascheville died in 1970. What a coincidence!
Ichazo said specifically that, he was handed the whole of the Tradition now spread in many branches around the world in various cultures. He was given “the whole works” and the mission of translating it into Western terms. A new culture would be born from his efforts, and those who were the “seed people” would be at the root of a very important development — the creation of new cultural reforms which would embody the Truth.
Ichazo explained the reasons behind South America being the center of this new cultural movement. Europe had had its time, and now it would be the Americas’ time, especially South America, because the European influence was not as strong there and Christianity could fade away. So South America would be the source from which the new movement would begin.
The modern enneagram was born!
The current hypothesis is that the modern enneagram was started by Oscar Ichazo (and that’s true) but nobody knows how he created this model and where it came from. Some say that it came from the Sufi traditions, others from the Desert Fathers or Ramon Lulle, but nobody really knows. Some argue that it’s neither important nor relevant to know the real sources, but entertain an unnecessary aura of mystery around Ichazo and the enneagram. Mystery is not good for scientific studies, but probably better for business.
Our thesis is as follows: As far as we know, around 1920 Gurdjieff created the nine-pointed figure of the enneagram as it is depicted today (so far, nobody found solid evidence of anteriority). Ichazo took this figure and applied neo-Kabbalah to it (and probably others systems, such as the nine mewa of the sino-tibetan astrology).
We assume that what you just read, let’s call it this new thesis has at least four advantages:
First: It makes the beginning of the modern enneagram clearer and less mysterious (sorry…). It’s easier to study the sources and to understand a clear background like the Kabbalah.
Second: No more need to maintain an aura of mystery or magical wisdom which can be an obstacle to the deepening of knowledge and makes it less necessary to be dependent on a guru of the enneagram. Nobody is anymore the “holder” of the knowledge of the enneagram.
Third: In this context, it’s easier to be thankful to Oscar Ichazo as the founder of this new model of the personality and to appreciate the depth of his findings.
Fourth: It’s now possible to study enneagram outside of the context of Oscar Ichazo (or of Claudio Naranjo, and later authors) and to apply other ideas or research to the model, exactly as Laleh Bakhtiar did when she applied the neo-platonic theory of the nine points (in the Sufi context) to the enneagram, and as we did it also inside our MARIE Institut since 2000.
We started at the place of Plato, but of course no need to add, that we can track back more ancient sources, such as Chinese, Indian, Egyptian, and more , that are the topic of our new book to come .
This post is also available in: Français