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Beware of enneagram “gurus”

Beware of enneagram “gurus”

The last blog was titled “Be wary of enneagram experts” in which I try to make the case that enneagram “expert” is a misnomer, something not realistically achievable for those who know the Enneagram. The enneagram is a system , a path and a journey that keeps on giving. The “expert “ moniker is also not used by those in the field for multiple decades who, by some standards, might actually qualify to use this label.

This blog is something more potent, a bigger issue and a huge temptation. It is about the challenging issue of Enneagram “gurus.” In Sanskrit, the word guru means a “teacher, guide, expert or master.” In English, the word “guru” usually involves the later: master or spiritual teacher. In other words, someone who is so extremely evolved spiritually that the person deserves our reverence because he or she is an exemplar of all things good and holy.

What are the dangers of gurus in general but also in the enneagram world in particular? Isn’t it a good thing to have people others hold in great reverence?

Putting someone on a pedestal erodes our own person power

By definition, overly admiring another person puts them above you as if they are a superior being and you are a lesser one. Giving our power away to a guru, instead of “owning” it ourselves and increasing our deep sense of personal power, is the antithesis of the power, potency, and potentiating essence of the Enneagram. How can you sense gurus who draw or even suck their power from those they teach? A quick way is to experience how you feel around them. Do you feel better about yourself in their presence and worse when not? Do you speak or think of them in superlative terms but not about yourself in this same way? Do you feel you need them and their energy to feel whole? This does happen with some Enneagram teachers.

Gurus may have engaged in “spiritual bypass”

Spiritual bypass is a term referring to a person who has engaged in a great deal of spiritual work but not the requisite amount of psychological work. When this person gets distressed in real life, they go into a spiritual zone without dealing with their own psychodynamic issues, they blame the other person for being insufficiently well-developed, or both. It is also common for those who are in “spiritual bypass” to cause havoc in their interpersonal relationships and/or to engage in addictive behaviors – addictions to sex, money, power, fame and more – or to engage in unethical behaviors. These might include soliciting money from those who follow them, purporting to use it in spiritual or humanitarian ways, and then using this as personal income. Or, it can include engaging in sexual relationships with those whom they teach and guide. This also happens with some Enneagram teachers, often because they have not done sufficient psychological work.

Want-to-be gurus most likely engage in spiritual bypass

This is becoming increasingly common in some Enneagram teachers. Why? In addition to the issues raised above, the Enneagram is so powerful and those who want to learn it are so hungry for paths for growth and relief from suffering, that simply teaching the Enneagram well can position the teacher to be perceived as a elevated being. People we teach don’t know us in our full humanness and often want to see us as fully evolved. I hope this can be a wake-up call to all Enneagram teachers to understand these positive projections that people we teach may place on us and to recognize that these highly positive feelings are really not about us. They are truly   about the person doing the projecting and their unmet needs and development phase. We need to not have our unmet needs and unworked issues do the tango with those whom we teach.

In this blog, I have given no specific examples from individual teachers, although there are examples of this. This is meant as a call to pay attention to these issues before they become a serious issue in the Enneagram community.


Ginger Lapid-Bogda PhD, the author of seven Enneagram-business books, is a speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach. She provides certification programs and training tools for business professionals around the world who want to bring the Enneagram into organizations with high-impact business applications, and is past-president of the International Enneagram Association. Visit: TheEnneagramInBusiness.com | ginger@theenneagraminbusiness.com

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Ahmad Morton
Ahmad Morton
4 years ago

You have my attention and as a Student of the Enneagram, I am looking forward to reading more about this.

Martin Hawkes
Martin Hawkes
4 years ago

The issue of ‘spiritual bypass’ is an interesting one which applies in contexts other than the enneagram where, in at least one case I’m familiar with, a speaker/writer of highly evolved intellectual and spiritual capacities could let himself down in failing to honour in practice the humility and interpersonal sensitivity that might be expected in one with such an exalted spiritual sensibility. The term ‘Jesus Chris superstar’ comes to mind in his case.

Annie Dimond
4 years ago

Thank you for this, Ginger! It resonates deeply with me! I often feel the pull to perform in our image-driven culture (and as an image type!) and so it is my work to reground in my humanity…it’s a teaching edge for me! And, it does seem that people WANT gurus when we don’t know what to commit to or who to trust. So, again, thank you! A reminder for all practitioners.

Dj Segovia
4 years ago

Amen and Selah thanks for saying that out loud… I’ve been working as an Enneagram Executive Coach in Corporate America for over 24 years and still consider myself a lifetime learner and sojourner on this “E” Journey using this fabulous assessment as a tool for proving ~ you are not your number, your personality or your persona!

Thanks for your heart for your clients and your integrity!

I love what you do~
Lord’s Blessings on You! As you move and enter a
new journey in San Francisco.
Dj Segovia, PsyD

Craig Martin
4 years ago

Thank you for this. We operate in an industry with no shortage of gurus and those seeking gurus. It’s helpful to have a reminder of this distinction.