I knew nothing about enneagrams until yesterday

I’d heard of them, of course, but I was in a state of blessed ignorance so the term just sailed right over my head. Now I’ve received a couple of emails from the persistent Richard Colter (never heard of him, either), so I looked ’em up.


It’s some kind of personality profile system, based on numerology and Christian mysticism, with this magical figure used to diagram your personality traits. It has about as much validity as Myers-Briggs personality tests, that is, none at all, but sucks believers in with its pseudo-scientific/pseudo-mathematical posing.

An enneagram is, literally, a drawing with nine lines. Figuratively, however, the enneagram is a New Age mandala, a mystical gateway to personality typing. The drawing is based upon a belief in the mystical properties of the numbers 7 and 3.* It consists of a circle with nine equidistant points on the circumference. The points are connected by two figures: one connects the number 1 to 4 to 2 to 8 to 5 to 7 and back to 1; the other connects 3, 6 and 9. The 142857 sequence is based on the fact that dividing 7 into 1 yields an infinite repetition of the sequence 142857. In fact, dividing 7 into any whole number not a multiple of 7 will yield the infinite repetition of the sequence 142857. Also, 142857 x 7 = 999999. And of course 1 divided by 3 yields an infinite sequence of threes. The triangle joining points 3, 6 and 9 links all the numbers on the circle divisible by 3. To ascribe metaphysical or mystical significance to the properties of numbers is mere superstition and a throwback to an earlier time in human history when ignorance was considered a point of view.

I’d just throw it in the bin with astrology and dianetics and The Bell Curve and every attempt to reduce humanity to a couple of numbers, but Richard Colter has a book he thinks I should read: UNDERSTANDING HUMAN EVOLUTION: AND THE NINE HUMAN ENDEAVORS – REVEALS THE PURPOSE AND MEANING OF LIFE. I am almost tempted to order it.

Perhaps the most compelling reason to read this book is that it reveals the Nine Human Endeavors (NHE), which are the highly sophisticated behaviors that separate modern humans from early human species such as Neanderthals. The constructive use of this knowledge is the key to unleashing the untapped potential of individuals, organizations, and countries. Thus, the knowledge contained in this book will prove to be indispensable to people of all walks of life.
This book will be of interest to Anthropologists because it provides a comprehensive theory of human evolution that answers the unassailable questions of how and why humans evolved. As the story of human evolution unfolds, new concepts fill the gaps existing in the anthropological sciences, along with critical details such as the key psychological and physiological differentiators between modern humans and early humans. And a basic timeline of evolutionary events provides the context necessary for those without a background in anthropology.

It’s 341 pages of this egotistical argle-bargle. I’m sure, given how the Ennealogical Brigade thinks, that it ought to be full of bizarre mystical diagrams that represent the “evidence” that this view of purposeful evolution is true, but a quick glimpse inside reveals that the author has instead substituted page after page of word salad. Maybe the diagrams are in an appendix.

Mr Colter himself is active on Quora, where he writes about two things, and only two things: how to get out of paying speeding tickets, and spreading misinformation about evolution, which always includes a plug for his book. I’d look deeper, but I think I’ve had enough nonsense for the day.


  1. robro says

    …throwback to an earlier time in human history when ignorance was considered a point of view.

    Um, “earlier time” as in today?

  2. eurosid says

    “…an earlier time in human history when ignorance was considered a point of view.”

    Uh, like “now”? There’s a whole bunch of people these days that consider ignorance a point of view.

  3. says

    I just did a little nosing around, because the first posting about him mentioned something about “virtues” and I was wondering if this was re-warmed “virtue ethics” or something like that. No such luck; it’s a set of oppositional attributes that someone pulled out of their ass and placed on a scale. So you have:
    Laziness and Action.
    Lust and Innocence.
    Anger and Serenity.

    Because apparently people are too simple to be both angry and serene? They should ask my old iaido sensei about that… And lust and innocence go quite well together, thank you very much Nabokov. It looks like it’s one of those party entertainments turned into a psychometric system, like Meyers-Brigg. I.e.: horoscopy2.0. Ugh. No thanks.

    Read the comments on the book on amazon. They are few and stilted. I’m guessing that the reviewers are family members and sock puppets. “My dog really likes to chase this book!”

  4. robert79 says

    Of course, an enneagram is based solely on the fact that we (mostly) use base 10 numbers. Anyone who does this kind of numerical mumbo jumbo does not seem to realise that this is only one, of many, ways you could write numbers. The number system we use is in no way special (except that it makes counting on your fingers a bit easier…) Doesn’t it seem odd that something as fundamental as personality traits could hinge on a human invention that’s only a few centuries old?

    Of course you could do the same trick in binary, and conclude that computers only have one (apparently they don’t consider zero a number) or two personally traits. And I wonder what happened to all those personality traits the ancient Babylonians had, with their 60-based number system. Clearly our personalities have become a lot simpler since then.

  5. Rich Woods says

    it provides a comprehensive theory of human evolution that answers the unassailable questions of how and why humans evolved.

    How can a question regarding observable reality be unassailable, and if the question is unassailable then how can it be answered?

    I will be giving this bookauthor a miss.

  6. Artor says

    “Maybe the diagrams are in an appendix.”

    I think the rectum would be a more likely place to look for them.

  7. monad says

    Besides all that, that’s really unaesthetic shape. Why do the lines go from 2-4 and 5-7, breaking the symmetry, instead of from 2-5 and 4-7 the way they would in a normal compound enneagram? Say what you will about Myers-Briggs, but at least they came up with sixteen categories in a regular way.

  8. nomdeplume says

    “the highly sophisticated behaviors that separate modern humans from early human species such as Neanderthals” – uh, say what? Oh, excuse me, that projectile vomiting seems to be catching…

  9. brucej says

    robert79 @5

    Actually computers only have 1 and 10 personality traits, by that system.


  10. Matt Cramp says

    I’ve heard about enneagrams before, in the context of the Zero Escape series of games, where the author used it to derive a reasonably diverse cast of nine characters (nine being a recurring motif in the series). These personality types are a useful way to build out a cast of characters that aren’t all like the author, but probably don’t contain a lot of deeper truths.

  11. chrislawson says

    As everyone knows, the Neanderthals died out because they only had Eight Human Endeavors.