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Enneatypes: Core, Shell, Keys

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Enneatypes: Core, Shell, Keys?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Enneatypes: Core, Shell, Keys

1. Core - Depending on How We Were Held and Treated as Infants and Young Children there Results the Core of the Type, Consisting of Three Interconnected Elements

Facets of Unity delineates the holy ideas as an illumination of one of the higher spiritual Enneagrams. It also describes in some detail what happens when limitations in our early childhood experience deny us access to the holy ideas. One of the primary insights is that we are all born with an innate trust in reality, what I term basic trust. Depending on how we were held and treated as infants and young children, this trust is impacted, usually diminished, and sometimes seriously broken. The result is what I call the core of the type, consisting of three interconnected elements. The painful and difficult emotional state that results from the lack of love and appropriate holding—both physical and emotional—is referred to as the specific difficulty for the type. So, each type has, buried deep in the unconscious, a painful and scary internalization of disconnection and lack of holding. Each individual reacts to this state by attempting to veil it, fend it off, or deny or repress it. This I call the specific reaction. So for instance, point Three’s specific difficulty is helplessness and its specific reaction is striving. Instead of just being and relaxing in our inner experience of ourselves, as happens when we are lovingly held and cared for, we resort to inner activity. These inner actions are the specific reactions that seek to change our uncomfortable experience. Both the difficulty and the reaction depend on one’s type because they reflect the holy idea of each type. As the holding is lost or disrupted and the trust is broken or whittled down, access to the understanding and attitude of the holy idea is lost. We thus lose access to its perspective and wisdom. Because of this, we as children are forced to develop a different idea about reality, a distorted belief that I have termed the specific delusion of the type. The delusion is not necessarily a conscious thought for the child, but it is conceptual and implied in both the difficulty and the reaction. In this way, the specific delusion colors the specific difficulty and the specific reaction of each type, thus resulting in nine core complexes. In the complex of point Three, when you believe the delusion that you are a separate doer, the difficulty that is most intolerable is feeling helpless and incapable of doing, and the only remedy seems to be the reaction of constant striving to avoid exposing or feeling the difficulty. This is a short synopsis of what I call the inner core of the fixation. So, each fixation develops around an inner core, a particular emotional and cognitive complex. (Refer to Facets of Unity for greater detail about the core and how it develops, and how basic trust is intimately connected to the goodness inherent inadequate holding.)

2. Shell - The Shell is the External Part of the Fixation, Constituting Most of Its Noticeable Characteristics

In fact, what we are aware of when we learn about the Enneagram and identify our type is not the core, but what I call the shell of the fixation. Each fixation has its inner core but also an outer shell that is obvious to others and maybe to ourselves. It takes quite a profound and discriminating awareness—or a great deal of psychological processing—to experience directly and consciously the elements of the core—the specific difficulty and reaction. The specific delusion can be even harder to discern. Part of the difficulty is that the core is obscured by the shell, which is the external part of the fixation, constituting most of its noticeable characteristics. Most people learn about these traits and dynamics through reading about them, not necessarily through direct awareness or understanding. However, there is a particular dynamic connecting the core to the shell that obscures the elements of the core. Even if we become aware of the specific reaction experientially—a reaction that is an expression of the disruption or limitation of our innate basic trust—the reaction does not usually appear simply as it is. Rather it is camouflaged by a thick network of attitudes, beliefs, relational tendencies, and traits that all imply the reaction while at the same time disguising it. The reaction basically covers up the specific difficulty in order to regain the desired loving holding of reality or of people in our life. But it does so in relation to the specific delusion, the principle that governs the core. This principle is related to our holy idea, but that relationship will not become obvious without an in-depth understanding of spiritual reality, or what I refer to as true nature, as described in Facets of Unity.

3. Shell - We Develop a Shell Around Our Core Instead of Realizing the Quality that Can Help Us Penetrate the Core and Dissolve It

Within this context, we recognize that we are each born with one quality of true nature, or essential presence. This quality of authentic spiritual presence is related to the holy idea in an interesting way. This connection expresses how the spirituality of nonduality relates to the spirituality of the ordinary dual world. The important insight is that we are born with one quality of Being, or authentic presence, as a particular essential endowment, which means we can access it more easily than the others. In many cases we experience it as children without knowing it; later all that remains is some feeling of it, some appreciation of how it affected us. This feeling—whether intuitive or unconscious—combined with our appreciation of the quality’s characteristics becomes the nucleus of our ego ideal. Thus, the ego ideal imitates the essential quality. We try to be someone who embodies this quality, but we don’t know the quality of presence directly and consciously. We just have a sense—an intuition of it or of some of its main characteristics. This becomes what we idealize, what forms the ego ideal for our type’s fixation. In other words, as the shell develops, rather than embodying the essential quality, we end up idealizing a facsimile of it. The shell develops around the idealization, which is a shadow of the quality, not the true quality. We develop a shell around our core instead of realizing the quality that can help us penetrate the core and dissolve it.

4. Keys - Each Key Spiritual Quality is Connected to Its Corresponding Holy Idea

We will explore how to work with our fixation in such a way as to find its key. And we will explore each key and how to access it directly and utilize it to free our consciousness from the limitations and distortions of the fixations. Each key spiritual quality is connected to its corresponding holy idea. It is easy to see this connection for some types but more difficult to see it for others. This is because the holy ideas are not qualities or dimensions of our spiritual nature. They are the understanding or wisdom that results from integrating true nature in its nondual expression. But we need to know the many nuances and implications of nonduality that most people miss in order to understand the holy ideas. As that understanding emerges, the connection between the holy ideas and the secret keys to the Enneagram will become more apparent.

5. Keys - Expressions of Enlightened Consciousness in the Ordinary World – Spiritual Qualities that Embody All that is True and Timeless about Enlightened Awareness

In the Enneagram, each key to the core of a fixation turns out to be a unique manifestation of pure consciousness or spiritual nature appearing in the world of duality. It is the very substance of nondual consciousness appearing in the world of duality. Finding a key is not a matter of awakening to pure consciousness or awareness, which is a more difficult and rare occurrence. Besides, nondual awakening does not function as the necessary key that each type requires anyway. Most people live in the ordinary world, which nondual teachings refer to as the world of illusion or ignorance. But all practice begins in this ordinary world, and most people live in this dualistic reality. The keys are expressions of enlightened consciousness in the ordinary world—spiritual qualities that embody all that is true and timeless about enlightened awareness—but are particular and manifest locally within the individual and their own experience. The keys are expressions of the eternal spirit, true and authentic forms of presence manifesting in particular ways without directly challenging duality or necessitating ego death. These forms of presence are much more accessible to us than nondual consciousness or enlightened awareness, precisely because they are meaningful in the ordinary world and quite useful, actually, for navigating our ordinary lives. Similarly, the obstacles to accessing them are also personal and minor in comparison to the obstacles we face trying to access enlightened awareness in its nonduality. In addition, the keys are helpful for any spiritual practice, since they help to unravel the limitations, distortions, and wrong beliefs of the fixation.

6. Keys - Having Access to All the Keys Will Unravel the Totality of the Ego, which is Patterned by All the Fixations

Yet the more we study, the more we notice that the type does not seem to fit as neatly as it did at the beginning. We come to see in our experience and behavior the traits and dynamics of other types. Sometimes it feels as if we are moving around the Enneagram, and we might think our typing is wrong. In time, we might learn that we are actually the totality of the Enneagram. Even though one type will dominate as we begin studying ourselves using the tool of the Enneagram, all the fixations are present in every ego. This becomes apparent as we go deeper in our inner exploration and appreciate the nuances of our inner dynamics. We discover traits that don’t fall under the pattern of our primary fixation. This means that if we are genuinely interested in spiritual learning and liberation through the Enneagram, we need to study all the fixations—their cores and their shells—as they manifest in our lives. That is how I taught the holy ideas; students learned to work with each point of the Enneagram, exploring the holy idea and the core of each point. I will follow the same methodology in this book. Learning the shell and the key of one’s type can unlock the fixation, but having access to all the keys will unravel the totality of the ego, which is patterned by all the fixations.

7. Keys - Some of us May Already Experience the Key to Our Type, with Greater Freedom from Being Fixated

We are all defined to varying degrees by our type. Some of us are quite fixated on and rigid in unconsciously adhering to the traits and dynamics of our type. Others of us have a looser fixation, as we have done some inner work, either psychological or spiritual, or we were graced with a good enough upbringing. The result is that we have more flexibility and are closer to the essential key of our type. Some of us may already experience the key to our type, with greater freedom from being fixated. Because of this range, I will present the material in a way that speaks to all levels. By including beginners who are more fixated, I can clarify the true outlines for each personality type. You may feel the description doesn’t apply to you now; however, it was likely true before you began developing self-awareness, or else you were one of those lucky people who avoided rigid conditioning in childhood. In either case, pointing to the fixated characteristics can help us understand each type in relation to its essential key.

8. Keys - The Ego Ideal is Not the Key that We Need to Unravel the Fixation and Its Hold on Us

Identifying our ego ideal is not that difficult if we study our fixation. I can list the ego ideal of each type (refer to appendix 3), but this is simply information; we need to experience them in action in our lives. The ego ideal is a view or image of ourselves that we are attempting to actualize. Words can point to it, but our self-study is what makes it possible for us to experience it as living knowledge. Even so, the ego ideal is not the key that we need to unravel the fixation and its hold on us. That key is the esoteric secret taught in the Diamond Approach and revealed in this book. Remember that the wisdom of the Sarmoun, the original ancient source of the Enneagram knowledge, runs as one of the currents in the logos of this teaching. By applying the knowledge of the Diamond Approach to the Enneagram, I had the inspired revelation of the holy ideas that I wrote about in "Facets of Unity" and, with it, how the specific reaction expresses itself in the shell of the type through the ego ideal. This latter revelation has now become the basis of this book, "Keys to the Enneagram." When I applied the knowledge of the Diamond Approach, what occurred was a spontaneous revelation, or inspired knowing, that took into consideration all that I had known and then synthesized it all into new insights into the Enneagram—here specifically related to the recognition of the ego ideal and how it forms.

9. Keys - Usage of the Term

It has been twenty years since Facets of Unity was published. Only recently have I realized that I have more understanding to share about the Enneagram, which has led to the creation of this book as a companion to the first. I have been feeling the necessity to complete that work, specifically to write about the fixation shells, for in these shells lie the secret keys that we need to unlock each fixation and tackle the difficult and deep task of working through the inner cores. I use the word key to refer to an essential aspect or quality that reveals the inner logic of each fixation, while also providing a means to “unfix” it.

Diminishment of Trust

Facets of Unity delineates the holy ideas as an illumination of one of the higher spiritual Enneagrams. It also describes in some detail what happens when limitations in our early childhood experience deny us access to the holy ideas. One of the primary insights is that we are all born with an innate trust in reality, what I term basic trust. Depending on how we were held and treated as infants and young children, this trust is impacted, usually diminished, and sometimes seriously broken. The result is what I call the core of the type, consisting of three interconnected elements. The painful and difficult emotional state that results from the lack of love and appropriate holding—both physical and emotional—is referred to as the specific difficulty for the type. So, each type has, buried deep in the unconscious, a painful and scary internalization of disconnection and lack of holding. Each individual reacts to this state by attempting to veil it, fend it off, or deny or repress it. This I call the specific reaction. So for instance, point Three’s specific difficulty is helplessness and its specific reaction is striving. Instead of just being and relaxing in our inner experience of ourselves, as happens when we are lovingly held and cared for, we resort to inner activity. These inner actions are the specific reactions that seek to change our uncomfortable experience. Both the difficulty and the reaction depend on one’s type because they reflect the holy idea of each type. As the holding is lost or disrupted and the trust is broken or whittled down, access to the understanding and attitude of the holy idea is lost. We thus lose access to its perspective and wisdom. Because of this, we as children are forced to develop a different idea about reality, a distorted belief that I have termed the specific delusion of the type. The delusion is not necessarily a conscious thought for the child, but it is conceptual and implied in both the difficulty and the reaction. In this way, the specific delusion colors the specific difficulty and the specific reaction of each type, thus resulting in nine core complexes. In the complex of point Three, when you believe the delusion that you are a separate doer, the difficulty that is most intolerable is feeling helpless and incapable of doing, and the only remedy seems to be the reaction of constant striving to avoid exposing or feeling the difficulty. This is a short synopsis of what I call the inner core of the fixation. So, each fixation develops around an inner core, a particular emotional and cognitive complex. (Refer to Facets of Unity for greater detail about the core and how it develops, and how basic trust is intimately connected to the goodness inherent inadequate holding.)

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