Book Review – The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram: Nine Faces of the Soul by Sandra Maitri

by Mark Votava


This book by Sandra Maitri is fascinating.  Sandra demonstrates the spirituality within the enneagram by going through what she calls as the nine faces of the soul.  I was struck by the way the book teaches that the enneagram can help us to become fully present and conscious to our Being of who we really are apart from our masks, illusions or techniques to distort reality.

The book goes through the nine enneagram types of ego identity while also talking about the healthy sides, gifts to the world and natural strengths that each particular type demonstrates when an individual connects to what is most true for them within their Being.  The nine types of ego identity are as follows: one, resentment; two, flattery; three, vanity; four, melancholy; five, stinginess; six, cowardice; seven, planning; eight, revenge; nine, indolence.  The book also goes through subtypes and wings.

As I have been studying the enneagram, I’ve have found it as an essential resource tool to help us to understand ourselves and get along in community.  The enneagram has become a path to formation and growth for me as I have understood some unhealthy patterns within myself that constantly lead me to a melancholy, withdrawn state instead of engaging the world with something beautiful and authentic.  As far as I understand I am a 4 with a 5 wing having a sexual subtype ( I connect best one on one through deep intimate connection, want what is authentic, see what is missing, I love knowledge, am extremely interior and feel deeply).  So things like writing, physical activity and local community activism get me out of my melancholy state of being withdrawn.

I often see too much of what is missing in life leading to a struggle with melancholy and depression.  So I am learning to engage the world more through what I find authentic.  This has lead me to some serious healing within instead of more depression, anger and cynicism about life.  Learning to practice gratitude and contentment is so healthy for me to become fully present in everyday life, but takes extra work on my behalf.

  • Developing the capacity to be present continuously

“Through developing the capacity to be present continuously, to contact our experience deeply, and to be curious about its contents, we can begin to see reality without the distortion of our inner movies…”

  • Making conscious the unconscious

“One way, then, of looking at spiritual development is as a matter of making conscious the unconscious…”

  • Being present in our immediate experience

“Therefore what we have to do to regain contact with our depths is to retrace, in effect, our development steps.  This entails being present in our immediate experience, which means fully contacting and feeling our bodily sensations, our emotions, and our thoughts – and being curious about inquiring into what we find…”

  • Consciousness and inner exploration

“By bringing consciousness to our bodies, experiencing and fully allowing whatever sensations, emotions, and thoughts that arise within our consciousness, we move deeper into ourselves and start feeling more in contact with ourselves.  This shift of focus from outer directedness to inner exploration in and of itself begins to take some of the wind out of the personality’s sails…”

  • Living at a distance from our depths

“We suffer because we are living at a distance from our depths – it is as simple as that.  The more our souls are infused with Being, the better we feel and the better life seems to us, no matter what our outer circumstances happen to be.”

  • Being is who and what we are

“Since Being is who and what we are, one cannot turn away from it without turning away from oneself…”

  • Embodiments of expressions of the Divine

“The more we perceive our essential nature, the more we know ourselves to be ultimately embodiments of expressions of the Divine.  While this is true for all of the manifest world, as humans we alone have the capacity to recognize our deepest nature.  This gives us a unique place in creation and is another aspect of our strength…”

  • The way we experience the world and ourselves

“When we perceive in this unquestionable way that who we are is Essence, our souls have undergone a radical transformation.  The way we experience the world and ourselves is dramatically different from how it was prior to this shift in consciousness.  We are no longer believers and seekers but have become identified with Being as who and what we are.  This, then, is a particular way of conceiving enlightenment…”

  • Ability to persevere in discovering our deepest truths

“Being, in contrast, is what is present when we fully relax and stop trying to make anything happen, and when we let go of all of our beliefs and positions…  Ultimately it is the confidence in our ability to persevere in discovering our deepest truths, to travel our inner terrain resolutely and find out firsthand who and what we really are.”

  • Developing and unfolding of the soul

“If the soul is supported in developing and unfolding, in other words, it will naturally be drawn toward its Essence, which is its inner truth.  Spiritual development, then, is really a matter of nondoing and of removing the obstacles and logjams that impede the flow of our souls.  Most people experience movement and change, but it usually stays within more or less narrow confines…”

  • Experiencing our lives as more harmonious

“The more we open to the flow of our souls, the more we experience our consciousness and in turn our lives as more harmonious…”

  • Being acts through us

“Being acts through us.  This is one of the most difficult things for most people to understand…”

  • We are individual manifestations of Being

“…we can begin to live a life in touch with and informed by Being, knowing consciously that we are individual manifestations of it…”

  • Embodied and open emotionally to our consciousness

“Being fully present means we are embodied and open emotionally to what our consciousness comes in contact with…”

  • Blocking our capacity to learn from our experience

“Any reaction to our experience – whether moving toward it, away from it, or trying to alter it – creates a contradiction in the soul and blocks our capacity to learn from it.”

  • An orientation of serenity

“If we are serious about discovering the truth of who we are, an orientation of serenity toward our experience is necessary.  Serenity means meeting the moment with openness of heart and mind – accepting whatever arises within or without – and not contracting against it.  Rather than habitually judging or evaluating our experience, we simply open, allowing ourselves to be touched by what is there…”

  • Profoundly in the moment

“Only when we are profoundly in the moment and our consciousness is anchored in its depths do we feel that we have arrived at our center.  At this stage, we know ourselves to be Being.”

  • Connecting to a dimension within ourselves

“The solution to human destructiveness does not lie in trying to regulate or eradicate it but rather with connecting to a dimension within ourselves in which such behavior does not make any sense.”

  • Living our human potential fully

“Within each of us, then, is a drive to know who we really are.  Our souls have a drive to connect with, know, and live the innermost nature of what we are.  We have an innate drive to actualize ourselves, to live our human potential fully, which if allowed takes us to the deeper and deeper levels of reality beyond the subjective, beyond the personality, beyond the separate self.”

  • What we experience in the present touches our souls

“Without our histories influencing our perception, our souls are indeed fresh and innocent.  What we experience in the present touches and impacts our souls directly, free of our associations or preconceived ideas about it.”

  • Our interconnection as members of humanity

“Beyond our interconnection as members of humanity, as individual souls we are each an expression and manifestation of Being…”

  • All of creation is an outpouring of Being

“All of creation is an outpouring of Being – Its manifestation and embodiment…”

  • When we are present, fully existing in the now  

“…real work is the endeavor of becoming conscious of our True Nature as Being.  This is the holiest work a human being can engage in…  This work of real transformation only takes place when we are living in real time, which is another way of saying when we are present, fully existing in the now…”

  • The central characteristic of Being is presence

“Being, whose central characteristic is presence, can only be experienced by being in tune with that characteristic – being present in other words.  So if we are to make contact with our essential nature, with the depths within us, we can only do so by being fully present each moment of our lives…”

  • Facing our truth through listening

“The more we inquire into what it is that brings us joy through listening closely to our hearts, we will see that joy arises the more we are real and the more we face our truth, because this takes us one step closer to our depths…”

  • The enneagram can deeply affect and even unsettle us

“…the enneagram gives us great power.  The information it contains can deeply affect and even unsettle us…”

  • The journey is not easy and requires a degree of honesty with ourselves

“The Journey requires facing painful and sometimes deeply frightening aspects of ourselves, tucked away in the recess of our souls…  It is not an easy journey and it requires a degree of honesty with ourselves only possible if we are personally driven to know who we really are…”

Does anyone have a story about how the enneagram has helped them to be more fully present, aware and alive?