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Interview with Richard Rohr by Deborah Ooten

Apr 15, 2024

In preparation for the IEA 2006 Conference in Chicago, I asked Richard Rohr if he would be open to being interviewed for 9 Points. In my Enneagram journey I had never met Richard and had only heard him on audio tape. To prepare for the interview I visited Richard’s website to see if I could gain an understanding of the way he has impacted the world with his life and vision. Even with this, I was unprepared for the intense, mental and heart-expanding experience of sharing an hour on the phone with this charismatic, eloquent man.


Richard’s words touched me on a deep level and his non-assuming presence allowed for a conversation that expanded my
consciousness and the understanding of spirituality on a profound level. This interview was conducted with the assistance of Kathleen Hartman Blackburn.


Deborah: What does Spiraling into Greater Consciousness, the Dynamic Enneagram mean to you?


Richard: Are you using this in connection with Don Beck or in a general sense?


DO: Both. The Enneagram is assisting us to move into a greater consciousness, as is Spiral Dynamics. Both are tools that assist in awakening greater awareness about our human condition.


RR: What I like about Spiral Dynamics is it’s recognition of the different levels of human interaction. It helps us to see, for example, that the concept of Red States and Blue States of our political system is more dynamic than we have imagined. I know this is different than Don Beck uses it but it shows why it is difficult to appreciate people at higher levels.


DO: Differing levels?


RR: Spiral Dynamics allows everything to “Be” regardless of the level of consciousness. It acknowledges that the human being has the capacity to change.  I like the realism in the Enneagram because it can open a person up for transformation and growth. The Enneagram gives us a sense of groundedness, for instance, you are a Two forever, and this is an incarnate position that keeps you aware of your humanness. It provides the raw material and doesn’t get into higher states of consciousness. There is no type that is better than another. Rather, it is inside of the wound (that creates type) that there is a capacity to grow. From the Christian tradition, this position keeps you aware of the “flesh.”


DO: Spiraling is talking about the same thing. Are you familiar with Ken Wilber?


RR: Oh yes, I quote from him a lot. Don (Beck) and Ken (Wilber) are two of the most brilliant teachers of our time. Tell Don that I look forward to working with him.


DO: How do you see the Enneagram and Spiral Dynamics interfacing to bring about greater consciousness to the world?


RR: The great mystics, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross were insistent that there was no God knowledge without self-knowledge. There are all of these people today claiming to have God knowledge but they are filled with the self, delusion and fear. Both Spiral Dynamics and the Enneagram are strongly saying you better know yourself. I always say that every viewpoint is a view from a point. You don’t see anything out there…except yourself. Out there becomes a projection of the self. There is no humbling self knowledge. There is narcissism on a grand and international level that is destructive and delusional. It exists on institutional, political, and religious levels.


DO: Would this include most organized religions?


RR: Yes, they are part of the problem and not the solution. Both Spiral Dynamics and the Enneagram strongly facilitate transformational work. I would expect most government and church institutions and officials to resist both of these systems because they depend upon people living an illusion, and having no honest critique of self. I call these belonging systems, not transformational systems. We need transformational systems, not cozy, little belonging systems.


DO: I love this! “Transformational Systems” – is this a phrase that you use in your work?


RR: For the last five to six years I have used this word, transformation, a lot. St. Anthony Messenger Press just re-issued and re-boxed my set of tapes called “Paths of Transformation”. This word, transformation, has become a favorite of mine.


DO: Is transformation synonymous with conversion and reformation?


RR: It is broader than that. With conversion the ego is still in place.


DO: Do you see the ego as being more easily transformed with these two systems?


RR: Yes. This will sound like religion to you, but if it remains an intellectual proposition, it is not transformation. I’ve been saying for years that if you don’t have transformation then your ego is still in place, and that makes your ego God. You have to decide what God you will submit to. Healthy religions allow for initiations when they lead to “true” God encounters or transcendence. It is at this time that transformation processes can be deep. This is when you meet the “lover” that is enticing and seducing you. When you meet a true saint it is almost like meeting a different species.


DO: So the ego or essence can serve as God…it is for us to choose. Choice must arise from a place that involves all three centers of being, not just the heart. This is Self with a capital “S.”


RR: That’s right.


DO: Can you tell us about your latest work?


RR: It is easy to say to two women, but the male of the species seems to be so utterly trapped in the system, in church and patriarchy, the old boys club. I have written a new book called Adam’s Return, about male initiation. Initiation is an umbrella word that means external knowledge leading to inner experience. Women learned natural content, through the body, menstruation, child birth and menopause. The male doesn’t have those same opportunities to learn first hand about the inner experience of the divine the way women do. Men are a special problem; they are “trapped at the top.” Men are most trapped inside of the system of the ego of illusion. I feel that it is a man that must put this message out and this is the work that I am involved with at this time. That is why my two most recent books have been on this subject.


DO: Just like Don Beck is in service to the spiral, it seems that you are inservice to shifting consciousness as well. I really want to thank you Richard for your time and I look forward to seeing you in Chicago.


RR: I am at your service in Chicago.



Dr. Deborah Ooten is the founder and director of the Conscious Living Center.