The Enneagram is a powerful model of human personality and tool for spiritual development that has ancient roots. The nine personality types recognized by the Enneagram were identified at least 2000 years ago by Homer in his epic poem "The Odyssey." In the Odyssey the nine lands that Odysseus travels to uncannily match the nine personality types identified by the Enneagram. These patterns were rediscovered by the early monastic group known as the Desert Fathers, and specifically Evagrius of Ponticus (345-99 AD). Refreshingly, Evagrius did more "listening" than he did "preaching"--and was perhaps one of the first depth psychologists. Evagrius would listen to monks to discover why, in the course of their day, they had lost touch with the experience of the "presence of God" that the monks had cultivated in prayer and other spiritual practice. In those listenings, Evagrius noticed that different individuals lost their connection to "presence" in very different ways--specifically, Evagrius observed, in eight different ways. The word that Evagrius used to described these eight "different ways" was "thoughts." For whatever reasons, these "eight thoughts" would in later Church history be revised, renamed, and recast into the now familiar "Seven Deadly Sins."
Skip ahead to the 1960s and the birth of the modern Enneagram. In an act of spiritual genius, Oscar Ichazo, a Chilean with a spiritual background that was wide as it was deep had the insight to take the Seven Deadly Sins (plus the two additional sins of deceit and fear) and map these to the nine pointed Enneagram symbol that had been introduced to the west by the Greek-Armenian mystic and spiritual teacher G. I. Gurdjieff. Since then, the Enneagram has been adopted and adapted as a tool for insight development by a vastly varied group of that includes, for example, Christians, Sufis, Jewish mystics, Buddhists, corporate trainers, psychologists, career coaches, screen-writers, and mediators, to name just a few.
"Psychospiritual" is an apt term to describe the way the Enneagram blends psychological and spiritual insight. Because of its spiritual roots, the Enneagram has been adopted as a tool for psychospiritual insight and personal development in ways that are not as easily achieved with such personality systems as the Myers-Briggs typology.
Michael Hampson is a former Anglican priest and graduate of Oxford University where he studied both psychology and philosophy. So it is no surprise that "Head versus Heart" is solidly rooted in a richly textured Christian world-view.
Yet, even for the non-Christian reader, "Head versus Heart" is a refreshing and valuable addition to the Enneagram literature. Hampson has a strong idealistic bent (he is a ONE) and it is clear that he has been guided by high standards to write a book about the Enneagram that would make it easy to learn the Enneagram; that would attempt to explain why the Enneagram "works"; that would explore new territory in the application and understanding of the Ennegram; that would hope to contribute to a deeper spiritual practice, and specifically a deeper Christian faith; and that would challenge students and teachers of the Enneagram to revisit some basic assumptions about the Enneagram and the way it is taught. I believe Hampson accomplishes each of his objectives.
The author could have easily broken the book into three separate, equally satisfying books with potentially different audiences. It would be a mistake to think that "Head versus Heart" will only be of value to the Christian reader. Two of the three "books" contained in "Head versus Heart" will be useful to all those interested in the Enneagram.
The first "book within a book" takes a new, very easy to understand approach to explaining the nine types. Hampson uses a novel approach which he calls the "strategy board" to explain how and why the Enneagram works. Although his approach differs in many respects from the way the Enneagram is traditionally taught, Hampson does an excellent job of teaching basic principles in a way that does not require that the reader unquestioningly accept Enneagram insights and principles on faith. I would recommend "Head versus Heart" just for these sections--and I look forward to recommending the book to both my non-Christian and Christian friends and colleagues as a first book on the Enneagram.
Second, for those who are Christians, or who appreciate the Christian world-view, "Head versus Heart" includes a significant number of sections on how the Enneagram can enrich Christian spiritual practice. Since Hampson is a former Anglican priest, his emphasis and approach to Christian spiritual practice is naturally informed by his Anglican sensibilities. Hampson's thoughts on how the Enneagram can be used to enrich an understanding of prayer, confession and resolution, biblical journeys (the personality types of biblical figures) are always solid, and often inspiring. (Note--not all Christian denominations have always supported Enneagram teachings, so you will want to use discernment and educate yourself if your church takes a position against the Enneagram. Some Christians do not for example make a distinction between "esoteric" and "occult." On this issue, it should be noted that on the cover of "Head versus Heart" there is a book endorsement from the Archbishop of Canterbury.)
Third, for those who are already familiar with the Enneagram, as well as those who first learn about the Enneagram in "Heard versus Heart," Appendix 1 of the book includes some very thought provoking explorations of why the Enneagram works, and how its principles can be applied to such mundane topics as politics and automobile design. This section is not as easy reading as the rest of the book, but this section does include some truly original thinking and contributions to Enneagram theory. Similarly, several authors have explored possible neurophysiological explanations for why the Enneagram so accurately describes observed differences in type. One view has been that there is a possible mapping of the heart, head, and gut centers of the Enneagram to three discrete structures or groups of structures--the mammalian, and neo-mammalian and reptilian brain. Hampson offers his own perspective on the brain and the Enneagram that I found to be quite thought provoking.
My only criticism of "Head versus Heart," if it can be called a criticism, is that it is impossible in a book of this length to give credit to the rich textured history of the Enneagram and all those who have contributed to make it such useful and compelling tool. While many of the ideas and approaches in "Head versus Heart" are truly original, many resonate with or express insights that have been made elsewhere by other Enneagram writers and teachers. Finally, whether the "strategy board" will become the new model for teaching the Enneagram--and whether the claim made in the Preface (probably at the insistence of the publisher's marketing folks) that "Head versus Heart [is] the most important new work on enneagram in thirty years, and the definitive enneagram text for the twenty-first century" turns out to be true--this is an important book that I look forward to recommending to others, and to using and learning from for a long time to come.