of the Self-idealizations might be seen as the composite
mapping of an idealized facet of the self-image. For as I have said, these are
the self-representations, the comforting pieces of propaganda, the
advertisements for ourselves that we would present to the world.
And for anybody
involved with inner work, the self-idealizations can thus
directly highlight one of the main "veils" that cover our essential nature--and
in so doing they shine a light on prime "targets" needed to be deconstructed.
For these, or
any self-images--as A.H. Almaas has pointed out--are also
barriers against the experience of space. For the self-image "is what fills the
space, what structuralizes it; so only an individual who can let go of
identification with the self image will be able to experience space." 1
In enneagram circles, the word "essence" is often bandied about, and used
to contrast with the term "personality." But to what does the term "essence"
In the "pointing
out instructions" found in the Tibetan Buddhist Dzogchen
teachings we are told that rigpa, the essential nature of the mind, is comprised
of three elements. The first is unconfined space. The second is cognizance. The
third is the indivisible union of the first two.
This is saying
that though our essential (innate/ original) nature is "empty"
and vast like space, this nature is not "spaced out"--for it also possesses the
capacity for cognizance, the ability to know.
of these two features of essence is pointing to the fact
that the spacious quality of this innate awareness and its capacity to know are
co-emergent--in fact, they are two parts of the same phenomena.
The empty (non-conceptual)
spaciousness is the matrix from which a
spontaneous kind of knowing arises, a knowing of a different order than prior
conceptualizations that have been retained from the past.
We might recognize
this spontaneous "knowing" that arises from a spacious
mind that is freed from self-representations as "intuition." And in its ultimate
manifestation--such as in a Buddha--the indivisibly cognizant feature is said to
result in omniscience--a word we will re-visit later in this chapter when we
return to enneatype Five.
out" of our essential nature and its feature of space is
echoed in the Zen tradition. For when Zen's first Chinese patriarch,
Bodhidharma (that seven foot tall redheaded "barbarian" who first brought
Buddhism from India to China) was asked in an interview with the Emperor
of China, "what is the essence of the mind?" Bodhidharma's famous reply was,
"vast space, yet nothing called 'holy.' "
Since space is thus an essential component of our deepest nature, this means
that to the extent we are still identifying with any self-image, including the
idealized versions found in the Enneagram of Self-idealizations, that we are
precluded from knowing ourselves in an essential way. "Space is lost as the
mind takes self image for identity." 2
Maybe I should
say that again, if slightly re-phrased: our essential nature
obscured whenever the mind takes an image of the self--any image of the self
--to be our identity.
In this way,
the self image also comprises a central component of narcissism,
for narcissism (as I am employing the term) is taking oneself to be something
other than our essence, something other than who we most innately are.
If the self image
stands in the way, blocks and obscures the experience of
space, then it's idealized version also serves to block the underlying experience(s)
mapped in the Enneagram of Avoidances.
And thus we might
understand that the ability to allow and more fully
explore the experience(s) we characteristically tend to avoid, can begin a process
of dissolution--a deconstruction of (the idealized aspect) of the self image. It's as
though the avoidance, in being allowed and finally experienced, begins to poke
holes in the self image and its self-idealizing propaganda, begins to poke holes in
the ego structure itself, begins to let more space come in.
In this way,
working with the Enneagram of the Self-idealizations, as well
the linked Enneagram of Avoidances can be important tools in weaning ourselves
away from our narcissistic trajectory and its habituated defensive structure--thus
opening at least the possibility for embodying our deeper, essential nature.
Most of the people I work with who show signs of development share a few
things in common, in that they've come to be more familiarized with the spacious
sufficiency of their own essence, which in turn has led to a lessening of grasping
for external objects that had formerly been employed to fill a vacancy in the self.
(This "vacancy" is a deficient emptiness, and thus different from "spacious
there is often a lessening of aversion toward experiences that
had formerly been resisted or avoided. And so for the Fours--when it comes to the
latter--this has usually involved a willingness to allow for the experience of "simple
The Sevens who
have begun to touch a transformed perspective in themselves
commonly do so when they no longer habitually reach for external "sweeteners"
whether these be alcohol and drugs, sex, "productivity," idealized persons, or
whatever their gluttony had formerly grasped for as part of their strategy of
reacting to anxiety, or defending against pain.
A developed Seven
has come to recognize the connection between anxiety,
their plan for a more ideal future, and the gluttony that might reach for some
substance or object as if it might make their future more ideal. For a developed
Seven has come to see the trap of this "idealism," as well as to recognize that
their future orientation had been continually taking them out of the reality of
the present moment--and that the resulting loss of presence is what creates the
anxiety to begin with. For lacking in presence, something "important" feels
The analogy I've
often used here is that presence for a human being is like
water to a fish. It's the natural "atmosphere" in which the being might thrive.
And so, just as a fish might suddenly become panicky and thrash around when
removed from the water, so too the human being when estranged from presence.
In a way--and
this is true of all of the types--the thing that a Seven is fearing
and attempting to avoid (in the case of Sevens, their pain) can keep them so busy,
that it makes it hard to encounter their deeper nature. This "ego activity"
obscures the underlying spaciousness of essence. For all of us in fact, the thing
that we are avoiding ruffles the water, obscures what lies deeper, keeps us running
on a fallen track, cycling in Samsara with what I've termed an "idiot's momentum."
What we are avoiding
keeps us in a confined sense of space, where we take
ourselves to be a certain kind of subject in aversion to a particular object. The
confining nature of such an object relation leads us to feel cut off from the whole,
for this is a perspective that has begun to structuralize the vastness of unconfined
space such that we wind up identifying with the shell, the egoic shell, that which
takes itself to be separate from the whole.
What we are
avoiding is thus a large part of what keeps us confined within
our particular ego structures. For this avoidance also keeps us obedient to a
strategy of defensiveness, the reflex of aversion. And this reflex actually solidifies
our separateness, thus solidifying as well the underlying sense of deficiency, which
ironically is the very thing the ego is trying to protect from and ward off.
So a customary
policy of aversion or avoidance turns out to be a very
questionable "foreign policy" towards ourselves--or towards life itself. It's the wrong
use of the will. It's a wall we've learned to construct, that at the same time not only
keeps us shelled and walled off from our essential nature, but also keeps us shelled
and walled off from another part of ourselves, a part that is being rejected, a part
that feels wounded and shameful, a part that may feel terrifying to face, and scary
to allow. And this is the part of ourselves evoked by the enneagram of avoidances.
rejected self tends to remain rather unknown, unexplored,
un-exposed, and under-developed. It's a buried part of the soul. It's the part that
we've been trying to hide-even from ourselves--through the employment of our
particular self idealization.
to the wounded self that's been buried (relegated to an underworld
status) comprises a part of our "ego defenses," keeps us wed to a more "lofty"
perspective--from which we look down upon what hurts--while keeping the wound
sealed off from the rest of the personality.
But part of the
cost here is that these wounded parts of the self don't get much
of a chance to heal or mature. We're so ashamed of them that they remain shunned,
and thus stunted. And so our idealized self-representation is accompanied, if not
haunted, by another image of self that is like its shadow aspect, a self-hood that
tends to remain darkened or invisible, a face of the self that is not customarily
brought out into the light.
Yet there is
another option in our "foreign policy" toward wounds--if
could cease our aversion. For wounds are also openings. And where our wounds
swell, there we may find ourselves more "tender," "sensitive," "vulnerable,"
"defenseless." (Here our barriers may be thin and ourselves less hardened). For
our wounds evoke the sense of permeability, rupture, the sense of having been
penetrated, an accessibility to sub-surface depths
And all of these
metaphors make our wounds cognate with the goddess
Persephone, the vulnerable, ravaged goddess who's been raped and dragged
down beneath the earth. She's the consort to Pluto/Hades, the underworld's
Lord, a god of eliminative processes (who receives all that we would disown). For
the Greeks, Pluto was primarily the god of death, thought to be "invisible," but
also a god of "riches" patron of our deepest wounding sand associated with an
And so I'm suggesting
the avoided, wounded, buried regions of the soul not
only tend to place us in the vulnerable underworld perspective of a ravaged
goddess, but through the proximity to Pluto, there is also a potential richness here,
a psychic wealth associated with depths, and where something "transformational"
--something metaphorically akin to "death and rebirth"--might actually take place.
is a vulnerable, wounded goddess, then Pluto is that which has
penetrated her, that depth (of perspective) to which the wound might lead, or to
which it is invisibly wed.
As the god of
death and destruction, Pluto is also the god of deconstruction
--and as such, the patron deity of the via negativa. He reveals by what he takes
away; destroys the apparent solidity of everything that has form or structure (all
that veils what's beneath the form--that "vast space" again which is as well the
Such depth of
perspective can be corrosive, an acid that might dissolve as well
the cognitive and emotional obscurations to our deeper, more spacious form of
vision. This is also the function of spiritual teaching-and the deepest use of the
1 A.H. Almaas, The Void, p.85
2 Ibid, p. 135