The Higher Mind and The Opened Heart: The Holy Ideas and Virtues

By Ron Esposito, M.A.

This article is a distillation of all my previous writing on the Holy Ideas and Virtues of the Enneagram. Quotes are from “The Enneagram of Passions and Virtues” by Sandra Maitri.

Type One: Holy Perfection/Serenity

I am guaranteed to suffer when I resist “what is” in the moment.  When I don’t accept people and situations as they are I will suffer, leading to anger and resentment.  If a situation is “supposed” to be different than it is, it would be. I cannot change anything unless I first “accept”.  Acceptance and non-judgment are key to my serenity.   My job is to surrender to “what is” in the moment and make conscious choices from there.  Everything is “perfect” in the moment because “it is”.  It doesn’t have anything to do with things (me included) being flawless.  To use a seeming paradox, I’m perfectly imperfect.

Claudio Naranjo states that the passion, anger, is “a rejection of what is in terms of what is felt and believed should be.” Anger is reacting against what reality presents us. Much of One’s suffering is due to evaluation and judgment.

Serenity is a by-product of accepting things that I cannot change.  It is surrender to what I cannot control, ultimately letting go.  The Serenity Prayer counsels us to “accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference”.  Knowing the “difference” means that I “let go and let God”.  The real things that I can change are my thinking, feeling and behaving, then my experience of the world changes.

The virtue serenity is a state of being peaceful, calm and clear. Ichazo states, “It is emotional calm expressed by a body at ease with itself. Serenity is not a mental attitude, but the natural expression of wholeness in a human being secure in his capacities and totally self-contained.”

Type Two: Holy Will/Humility

There can be a “willfulness” in attaching to that I know what others need or what they should do.  This leads to arrogance and pride in regard to myself and my “helping”.  Everyone is better served when I can say “I don’t know” sometimes.  “I don’t know” is an honest stance.  In recovery programs the third step prayer asks to “relieve me from the bondage of self so that I may better do thy will”.  This refers to our enslavement to the egoic mind and release through surrender to a higher Will and our higher Self.  There is an experience of Holy Freedom and an inner spaciousness that comes from realizing that I don’t have to compulsively help.  The illusion that my personal effort is required to make good things happen is surrendered.  The weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

Conversely, the passion of Type Two, pride, is about how we would like to see ourselves, an idealized self-image, rather than seeing ourselves as we really are. According to Sandra Maitri, “Our pride is an attempt to offset awareness of the ultimate emptiness of our personality structure …pride stands in the way of seeing things as they really are.”

Humility enables a balance between giving and receiving, helping to engender the experience of being in proper perspective to the Universe.  We are not above or below but in the mix.

Maitri states “humility is the recognition and acknowledgement of both our limitations and our capacities…it is seeing ourselves and our abilities clearly. Without filtering our experience through a concept of what is acceptable and unacceptable based on an image we hold in our minds we are simply in touch with what is.”

Type Three: Holy Law/Veracity

The Universe and its operation through me is underpinned by a variety of laws both physical and metaphysical.  Holy Law posits that God/The All and Everything acts through me, as me.  The Christ spoke directly to this when he stated that “The Father and I are One”, piercing the illusion of a separate “doing” and accomplishing.  Upon contemplation, who’s “doing the doing”?  Who am I really?  From Indian philosophy, Karma Yoga deals with the effects of action in the world (the accrual of karma) and promotes the experience of “doing” with letting go of the attachment to results.  “Letting go” aids in aligning my will with natural law through which all things are done.  Law is always operating. 

The passion of deceit entails a deception and lying about Three’s reality. This deception involves shape shifting to present themselves in a way that others will approve of, admire and love them. The real deceiving is self-deception. 

 Veracity (truthfulness, honesty, accuracy) enables me to look beyond the trappings of my “idealized self” and experience myself as a vehicle through which the All and Everything expresses.  It feels good to get out of my own way!

By practicing Veracity we are able to see through our idealized self, having the willingness to drop the image and be authentic.  This requires us to ask the perennial question of who am I?  This deep dive into exploring our thinking, feeling and behaving as well as the underlying motivation yields true self-knowledge. 

Maitri writes that through the virtue of veracity “we express the truth of who and what we are. We are informed by our deepest nature rather than by the personality.”

Type Four: Holy Origin/Equanimity

The ancient Chinese philosophical text, The Tao Te Ching, reminds us of our cosmic Origin in the formless and how it takes form in the variety of things in the universe, including us (spiritual beings having a human experience). There is a cycle of form into formlessness that completes and fulfils the yearning of creation for the connection to Source and the unity that underlies Reality. The existential pain of feeling abandoned and alone in the universe, separate from Source, is crushing.  The yearning can be viewed as a “divine discontent” that seeks union and an end to separation (the domain of the ego).  The poet Rilke alludes to the call of Source when he writes “Hasn’t my longing ripened in you from the beginning as fruit ripens on a branch?”  In Reality, we are not separate from Source or anything for that matter.  Dualism creates the illusion of separateness.  We take refuge in the experience of being a wave on the ocean of Being.  How can a wave be separate from the ocean? 

 Maitri speaks about the passion of envy, “the basic assumption around which a Four’s character is built, then, is the sense that who they are fails to measure up to how they ought to be.” Envy is based on the premise that another has something that we don’t, and that that thing they possess, whether an actual object or a personal attribute or quality, is superior to what we have.

We come to know the virtue of equanimity by living in balance and experiencing the Buddhist concept of the Middle Way.  Maitri states that “the very attitude of equanimity—not valuing one experience over another--allows us to be with the whole of our experience, and so doing, to experience our wholeness.”  The practice of gratitude lessens the sting of envy.

Equanimity aids in the realization that all things come and go, rise and fall.  This is the way that it is.  Equanimity helps in welcoming all feelings and the acceptance of ordinary life.

Type Five: Holy Omniscience/Non-Attachment

Holy Omniscience can be likened to knowing without knowing how you know…the cosmic “download”.  There is a direct “knowing” of Essence and Reality beyond conceptual thought that is perceived with a penetrating clarity that does not require the exertion of the egoic mind to understand.  We know the Intelligence behind our limited ego minds.  A veil has been lifted.

 In Type Five there is a generalized and characteristic retentiveness or stinginess, a holding on that forms the core of their suffering as avarice. Maitri states that Fives are “self-contained and self-sufficient tending to feel isolated and disconnected and so like one marooned on a dessert island, they hold on to what they have out of the fear that their resources will run out.”

 The virtue of nonattachment implies no longer clinging to our sense of self and connotes taking in exactly what we need and letting everything else go. We work through our aversion to and withdrawal from direct emersion in our experience by becoming present to what is going on within our hearts, minds, and bodies and experientially inquiring into what we find.

Through practicing Non-Attachment we feel transparent and nothing is “stuck” in our consciousness.  The more we give away, the more we keep.  There is a great “letting go” of the constrictive thinking and feeling that there is not enough of ourselves, energy, resources and experiences.   Anything Real cannot be depleted.  The Universe is abundant.  It is when we are constricted that we experience lack and limitation.  In the moment we have everything we need.

Non-attachment helps us to be engaged in the world and hold it loosely.  We are able to give and receive, sharing ourselves without fear of depletion.  We have the experience of expanded inner space

Type Six: Holy Faith/Courage

Holy Faith is the “felt” experience of being supported by the Ground of Being that is existing right now.  This is Faith that is beyond belief and is rooted in experience.  Through the experience of Holy Faith we trust and have courage born of accepting our own inner authority to respond spontaneously to what arises in the moment not bound by beliefs, habit and doubt.  We come to what Life presents with an inquiring attitude.

Avoiding anxiety and finding security becomes the driving force in the personality. Paradoxically, rather than seeking security, the way through the fear is by exploring our lack of security, opening up the fear contained within. With this realization Maitri states that the virtue of courage is about paying “attention to our inner reality, above and beyond overcoming the inertial pull of unconsciousness. We might think that courage is fearlessness, but the truest form of courage is not the absence of fear, but rather facing what we need to face even though we remain afraid.”

We have “courage to change the things we can” according to the Serenity Prayer.  What we can change is ourselves.

Type Seven: Holy Plan/Constancy

When we are continually in a state of anticipation, planning, future orientation and the gluttony for experience we are not fully present to all that is occurring in each moment.  The conundrum of the quest for pleasure and the avoidance of pain is the turf of Seven. According to Maitri “gluttony is a desire to taste, to sample many and varied things, as opposed to deeply experiencing them. There is a taking in, but not a filling up.”

In surrendering to the unfolding of Holy Plan we are able to be more constant in each moment, remembering that in each moment we are having the optimal experience for our souls to have.  It is not a particular experience that creates satisfaction, but the quality of our awareness and presence that determines how fulfilling each moment is.  Pain is as much of each moment as pleasure and contentment is experienced when we do not reject any aspect of our experience.  The ego’s desire to steer reality in a preferred direction is seen through.  The ultimate pleasure is in the journey itself.  The deepest level of the soul knows that we are part of the Holy Plan.

Constancy is the ability to stay with and be present in the moment, feeling one’s feelings, taking in no more and no less that it needs, expending precisely as much energy as necessary. Avoidance and opting for what feels good will not bring true satisfaction and fulfillment.

Type Eight: Holy Truth/Innocence

In being obsessed with controlling things to happen “my way”, we suffer in thinking that we must maintain ourselves as separate from what is actually occurring out of fear that what is happening will control us. When we realize that we are not separate, we no longer feel controlled by all the nuances of life.  The Holy Truth is simply that “All is One.”  There is only one Reality, one existence that is here happening right now.  All of the different levels of existence, all of the endless manifestations, light and darkness, surface and depth, being and non-being, form and formlessness are all part of one unfathomable reality that collectively is the Truth.  Everything is an aspect of the one, indivisible Reality.  All dualities are seen as fundamentally illusory.  Everything exists in God --- this is non-dual perception of Reality. 

The passion of lust refers to unquenchable craving and yearning.  Fulfillment is sought through the senses in a tendency toward overdoing everything. Maitri states, “There is the sense of being compelled by one’s desires, unable to stem the powerful inner force toward pleasure and satisfaction, toward consuming and acquiring.”

Ichazo defines the virtue of innocence as “responding freshly to each moment without memory, judgment or expectation. In innocence one experiences reality in one’s connection to its flow.” The virtue of innocence is connected directly to acting from our true nature, responding spontaneously with a purity of heart that is open and unguarded without cynicism or blame.  Our strength is in being truly vulnerable.  This is the paradox of Truth.

Type Nine: Holy Love/ Right Action

Through self-forgetting and distractibility we don’t remember that we are integral to the workings of the Universe.  There is inattention to self, self-neglect and heedlessness as well as difficulty in discernment, discrimination, asleepness and inertia. 

Without each of us as co-creators, the Universe wouldn’t exist in the same way. Holy Love is a state of Being wherein we know ourselves as Love and are worthy of being seen.  Through the dynamism of Holy Love we loosen self-forgetting and take Right Action, moving forward for self.  Everything is made from Divine Love.  We are made in the image and likeness of the Divine.  The Divine loves us as It loves Itself.  Love is a living, dynamic force dissolving all barriers and boundaries, working to restore to our awareness its unity with Truth.

Right Action is doing what needs to be done for the self, facing priorities and valuing oneself.  The virtue is about doing what it takes to awaken to our true state of affairs, overcoming the inertia of the personality. Ultimately, this leads to self-love and a sense of worthiness.

Ron Esposito is a certified Life Coach, Enneagram Teacher and Spiritual Mentor at the Conscious Living Center.

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