From Ancient Times to Modern Times

I was listening to Helen Palmer give the keynote talk at the 2013 International Enneagram Conference in Denver again this morning.  She was one of the earliest people to start teaching the Enneagram in the U.S. in the 1980's, I believe.  The second person, in fact.  She's a professor of Psychology at the J.F.K School of Consciousness. 

Image from Helen Palmer's 2011 article, Hidden in Plain Sight: Observtions on the Origins of the Enneagram.

Image from Helen Palmer's 2011 article, Hidden in Plain Sight: Observtions on the Origins of the Enneagram.

Anyway her talk was about the very earliest beginnings of the Enneagram, and how it was embedded in the consciousness of primitive people- not like we know it today where the points stand for our personality types, but the planets themselves had personality types, or elaborate legends attached to them.  This was when people could only see 5 heavenly bodies in the sky, before the telescope: the sun, the moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Venus.  The Enneagram symbol developped out of a need to be familiar with the placement of the heavenly bodies in the sky in order to nagivate and keep track of days.  Sheperds taking their sheep out to pasture for two months would watch the moon to know at what point to start making their way home, and in what direction. 

If you look at this chart of the phases of the moon, you'll see how it's got the gap at the bottom where the new moon is.  It's a new moon when it's completely dark and can only be seen by a telescope.  The moon was considered a half-moon between 9 and 10, and 19 and 18. Those two points, taken together with the top phase- phase 14- represent the three points of an equliateral triangle.  Later, in Pythagoras' time, a hexad was added over top of the triangle to join points 1, 4, 2, 8, 5, 7.

Says Palmer, "It was important for us to be faithful to the maps that we were given so we could survive.  We had to honor the deities so the moon would come up again tomorrow."  The Greeks would later build on the map, coming up with legends for the position of the planets.  Saturn, the timekeeper, being the progenitor, ushering in the Golden Age, Jupiter being the second deity, his son, ushing in the silver age, which bore The War of the Titans. 

It's cool to think of this symbol being embedded so deeply in our culture, that as the title of Helen's thesis suggests, it's just been hidden in plain sight.  More thoughts to come.