In this article I’ll look more at some of the underlying theory behind the enneagram ‘process model’ and centres, with speculation as to how this applies to the psychological enneagram. To start with, let’s consider the ‘Law of Three’, which is one of the two principles theoretically underlying the enneagram symbol (the other being the Law of Seven):
“Before examining these influences,” began G., “and the laws of transformation of Unity into Plurality, we must examine the fundamental law that creates all phenomena in all the diversity or unity of all universes.
“This is the ‘Law of Three’ or the law of the three principles or the three forces. It consists of the fact that every phenomenon, on whatever scale and in whatever world it may take place, from molecular to cosmic phenomena, is the result of the combination or the meeting of three different and opposing forces. Contemporary thought realizes the existence of two forces and the necessity of these two forces for the production of a phenomenon: force and resistance, positive and negative magnetism, positive and negative electricity, male and female cells, and so on. But it does not observe even these two forces always and everywhere. No question has ever been raised as to the third, or if it has been raised it has scarcely been heard.
“According to real, exact knowledge, one force, or two forces, can never produce a phenomenon. The presence of a third force is necessary, for it is only with the help of a third force that the first two can produce what may be called a phenomenon, no matter in what sphere.
“The teaching of the three forces is at the root of all ancient systems. The first force may be called active or positive; the second, passive or negative; the third, neutralizing. But these are merely names, for in reality all three forces are equally active and appear as active, passive, and neutralizing, only at their meeting points, that is to say, only in relation to one another at a given moment. The first two forces are more or less comprehensible to man and the third may sometimes be discovered either at the point of application of the forces, or in the ‘medium,’ or in the ‘result.’ But, speaking in general, the third force is not easily accessible to direct observation and understanding. The reason for this is to be found in the functional limitations of man’s ordinary psychological activity and in the fundamental categories of our perception of the phenomenal world, that is, in our sensation of space and time resulting from these limitations. People cannot perceive and observe the third force directly any more than they can spatially perceive the ‘fourth dimension.’
-Gurdjieff, as quoted by Ouspensky in In Search of the Miraculous.
Fitting the 9 psychological ‘types’ onto the psychological enneagram implies that the Law of Three is involved; generally, the three ‘things’ said to be involved here are the ‘centres’ i.e. the feeling, intellectual and instinctive. Gurdjieff himself isn’t known to have used the types, though he did believe in people normally having dominant centers. Gurdjieff describes the 3 centres [‘brains’] as conductors for different forces in his “All and Everything” series.
We can take this further considering the statement there that the forces change their relationship throughout the process – one that was passive becoming active, another that is active becoming passive, etc.
We might look perhaps at this as having a relation to the types themselves; each ‘centre’ then can be thought of as representing or generating a ‘force’, which can then act in a fashion that could be either positive, negative, or neutralizating (however we define those).
Which ‘type’ fits where may be a contentious issue. In the feeling centre for example, we could see feeling + as 2, feeling – [internalized or negative feelings] as 4, where in 3s feeling is ‘neutralizing’ and hence invisible (feeling being apparent in motivations, but less directly used). i.e. e.g. 567, 7 is the type that seems most ‘positive’, but 5/6 are more uncertain, while for 891, various definitions could be applied; most likely 8 due to its expansiveness would be ‘+’, but 9 could be viewed as ‘+’ by virtue of being a ‘positive outlook’ type.
Note that the 3-force model, would imply that if one centre is held in one role, the other two fill the other two roles; this implies a degree of crossover between types in that the other centres a person has will resemble other types’ functions. (Which could be taken as support for ‘tritype’ in a fashion).
For each particular role of the primary centre, there are two ‘patterns’ that exist for overall centre functioning: e.g. for Feeling +, the other centers could be [Intellectual 0, Instinctive -] or [Intellectual -, Instinctive 0]. The two patterns could be assumed to be related to ‘wing’, or one person might switch between the two. The wing theory would be in keeping with the function-equivalence model below.
Fitting the forces model to the enneagram is slightly difficult in that as noted there’s ‘crossover’ between different types. 3 forces actually generates only six combinations: the first force has three options, then the second with two options while the last is then set based on the first two [3 in first position x 2 in second position = 6 combinations]. Overall, nine types are only distinguishable if the forces also have an order of priority, where we can say e.g. that [Instinctive 0 primary, intel -, feeling + ] is different to [Feeling + primary, Instinctive 0, Intel -].
A number of potential models could be produced for which centres follow which orientations.
Here we have produced one sample orientation – however, various orientations could be argued for.
Here, parts of centers are allocated by [Triad x Harmonic Group]; that is, the groups here are 135, 279, 468.
A sample orientation
+ = positive role; – = negative role; 0 = ‘neutralizing’ role.
# Center allocation; force model
1: 0 part of instinctive centre
2: + part of emotional centre
3: 0 part of emotional centre
4: – part of emotional centre
5: 0 part of intellectual centre
6: – part of intellectual centre
7: + part of intellectual centre
8: – part of instinctive centre
9: + part of instinctive centre
Patterns of ‘centre activity’ probably are things that could be described as particular sorts of activity. Doing physical activity might be instinctive – [overcoming the physical centre’s innate laziness – with it resisting hence a ‘negative’ role], while feeling generates a positive force (motivation) and intellectual where necessary supplies method [reconciling]. ‘Selling someone something’ on the other hand, feeling provides the method [reconciling] while the motivation is practical [instinctive +], and intellectual is probably getting in the way [-].
These are hypothetical examples; various interpretations could be argued for.
If we assume that, having a centre in one orientation, forces the other two centres into complementary configurations, that generates ‘patterns’ that are consistent across multiple types. If having a centre operating in a particular ‘direction’ makes it difficult to use in other directions, this limits the activity triads available to particular types.
Note that multiple ‘types’ can have problems with a particular ‘triad’ of activity, but resulting from different centers. A “Feeling +, Intellectual 0, Instinctive -” triad, might be difficult for either Feeling-0 or Feeling-minus types. intellectual – or + types, and instinctive 0 or + types.
Activity Triads – using sample orientations:
Instinct +, Feeling -, Mental 0: 4,5,9 [‘Withdrawn’ Horneyvian Group]
Instinct +, Mental -, Feeling 0: 3,6,9 [‘Core’ types]
Feeling +, Instinct -, Mental 0: 2,5,8 [ ‘Rejection’ Object Relations group]
Feeling +, Mental -, Instinct 0: 1,2,6 [Going-Towards Horneyvian Types]
Mental +, Feeling -, Instinct 0: 1,4,7 [ The ‘frustrated’ object relations group.]
Mental +, Instinct -, Feeling 0: 3,7,8 [Aggressive Horneyvian Types]
This seems to show a very promising connection between the ‘activity triads’ based on centers having different relative orientations as above, and a number of theoretical subgroupings of the types. Overall, that can be taken for some theoretical support for the idea of ‘centres as forces’ as a model generally, however it is difficult to prove the sample orientation there is ‘the’ correct orientation; a number of equally logical ‘patterns’ would arise with different allocations or definitions as to what type is +,- or 0.
Note that the allocation of +,-, or 0 in a ‘forces’ model, is probably somewhat equivalent to allocating types to different ‘parts of centres’ [e.g. +,-, and 0 parts of centers could be though of as like the moving, emotional and intellectual parts of the centers]. Different assumptions in the definitions tend to lead the models in slightly different directions, however. There might also not be a direct conversion i.e. the emotional part of one center might be the neutralizing part of one center, vs. the positive part in another.