“The Enneagram of G.I. Gurdjieff”

In previous posts I have mentioned the work of Christian Wertenbaker. In this one, I review his book The Enneagram of G.I. Gurdjieff: Mathematics, Metaphysics, Music, and Meaning, published in 2017 by the Codhill Press. It runs to 122 pages plus a glossary and a list of references. The cover is interesting, depicting a triangle on which the nine points of the enneagram are shown with a point in the middle marked “10”. The top of the triangle is point 9, and points 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8 are marked by coloured lines. 1 and 4 are connected by a red line, 4 and 2 by an orange 2 and 8 by a yellow, 8 and 5 by a green, 5 and 7 by a blue, and 7 and 1 by a violet. This ties in with Gurdjieff’s “Colour Spectrum” exercise. If you wish to know more about that, and were not taught it by a pupil of Gurdjieff, it is in my book (Gurdjieff: Mysticism, Contemplation, and Exercises, November 2019, Oxford University Press). The outer circle is omitted from the cover illustration, but as said, the point ten is in the middle: two intriguing touches. The book is organised in twenty short chapters, 1 being the introduction and 20 the conclusion. As I have mentioned earlier, the highlight of the volume is, in my opinion, the excerpts of unpublished material from Gurdjieff (the group meetings on pp.85-86 and 109, and the stunning “Moon” lecture on 110-111; and from Jeanne de Salzmann (97). The excerpt “Time is the most important thing next to awareness” is from Orage, as noted by Blanche Grant, and has been published in Gurdjieff’s Emissary in New York, 216-217).

This book provides not an explanation of the enneagram nor even a historical treatment of the enneagram craze, let alone of Gurdjieff. It is rather an engagement or exploration of the enneagram from several complementary perspectives: the most important of these is probably the psychological, although the mathematics and geometry are more eye-catching. But there is also philosophy and cosmology here. The enneagram, its significance, and its hidden symmetries and curiosities, seems to be its theme, with the chapters developing from more simple and mathematical concepts to the more complex and cosmological. It does not seek to be conclusive and definitive: it is rather a search and an adventure into fields the author finds interesting and provoking, but always relating them to the enneagram and Gurdjieff’s ideas of and for conscious  evolution. That is the book as a whole. If one did not already know something of Gurdjieff, this book would not be the ideal introduction.

I have previously tried reading books on what is called “sacred geometry” and found them disappointing: they promise a great deal, even a key to the secrets of world order, and deliver very little. It is interesting, but little more, in my opinion, to draw attention to the Fibonacci sequence where it naturally occurs. Where does that leave us? Open-mouthed and gaping? Let us say that there is a golden symmetry to the nautilus shell. I acknowledge that it is beautiful. But then what? What have we gained which simply contemplating this wonderful instance of creation did not itself provide? It is not much, in my view, to simply evoke the reaction of “wow”. This is startling, perhaps, but to what does it lead? What is the practical continuation? What difference does it make to my life? If that is all there is, one might as well watch a modern movie: a form of pseudo-art which seems to rely on special effects, sentimentality, titillation, or a combination of these, and not much else. I absolutely reject a cheap distinction between “practice” and “theory”, at least so far as it relates to the spiritual life: some ideas are of such a level that they spark a sense of the presence of myself. An idea can be such that I become aware of my own existence in front of the reality, a higher reality, of this idea. This is something I often find when I contemplate the Diagram of Everything Living, in In Search of the Miraculous, 322-324.

It has taken me the longest time to come to this: that the distinction between “theoretical” and “practical” can be a false dichotomy in the spiritual realm, and yet that some theory leads nowhere very far advanced. For that longest time, something in me felt abashed before both those sophisticated minds which could understand the sacred geometry which they span out long after I had ceased to be able to follow it, and those austere souls who disdained the ideas which meant so much to me as “mere theory” and even “mental masturbation”. It is not that there is nothing in these critiques, but such phrases can too cheaply be exploited by people who are, in some respects at least, poseurs.

As I see it, in this volume, anyhow, one will find an exploration, and not merely the striking of a pose. I will offer one example, his statement that the enneagram can function, inter alia, as a symbol of three types of time and the three brains. At p.5 he introduces the idea that: “The three parts of the enneagram, the outer circle, the hexagram, and the triangle … represent three dimensions of time … (and) Each of the dimensions of time corresponds to a particular brain of three-brained beings, or one could say that each brain is tuned to a different dimension of time, and this gives us our unique possibilities.” In chapter 10, Wertenbaker expands on this: first he quotes Orage on the passing of the flow of time through each of the three centres, and relates this to Ouspensky’s three dimensions of time: “1) ordinary time, moving steadily from past to future, one second at a time, in which one of many sets of events are actualized each moment; 2) the dimension of ‘eternity,’ in which each moment in a sense exists forever; and 3) “the line of the actualization of all possibilities” (69-70). He then relates each brain to one of these dimensions. I follow his contention that the body moves in ordinary time, and the feelings bring an eternal quality to our consciousness. What I find harder to understand is his view that the mind is related to the third line. He states: “The mind … is free to look forward and backward in time and examine all possibilities …” (70). Is the mind really free like that? I am not persuaded. What value this book possesses, in places like this, is that it raises for pondering a fair and legitimate contention. Relative to the body and the feeling, I think that this is correct. So, I think that Wertenbaker is heading in the right direction. I wonder, however, if he has not drawn his correspondence too tightly. That is, has he perhaps prematurely made a definition?

Similarly, Wertenbaker’s insight that “the three forces may come from different levels, or cosmoses …” (16), is practical: one takes this understanding into contemplation, one has the body in one cosmos, the mind in a higher, and the fine forces to which one opens and seeks to localise and digest, from the highest. Further, I think it is part of the value of the “Four Ideals Exercise” which Gurdjieff brought that he taught a method to “suck into oneself”, blend and metabolize sacred energies which would otherwise not be available.

Note these comments: “Baez … somewhat mysteriously states that 24 is important in the scheme of things simply because it is 6 times 4 (35, see also 90). I confess I did not understand his meaning at 87-90, 93-95 and 118. If these can be rewritten more clearly … Then, at 52, Wertenbaker admits that the well-known passage in Miraculous about the incorrect but significant placing of the interval is not clear to him. Incidentally, his exposition of the enneagram at 84 seems to me to indicate that he does have some fair idea of what is meant (even if there is always an irreducible element of mystery). I think myself that the passage in Miraculous possess at least one clear meaning in theory – one must prepare in advance for the interval – the difficulty is to perceive when and how to prepare for the inevitable interval. However, for what it is worth, I think that Gurdjieff’s contemplative exercises provide at least some of the answer: one works on the conscious reception air and higher impressions each morning, to feed and digest the higher hydrogens which will are intelligent enough to take some corresponding action when the interval presents a challenge.

Some miscellaneous points: that “the world as we know it must consist of a mixture of symmetry and broken symmetry” (32) strikes me as important: it may be one aspect of the mystery of aim, and action in pursuit of an aim. The imperfection does not vitiate the aim and its nobility, with this knowledge, it may even validate it.

The fact that one can form the described triads only with three elements (one triad), four (one triad), five (two triads), six (four triads) and seven (seven triads), and never with more than seven (40), may be an objective factor in Gurdjieff’s relating the law of seven to that of three, and saying that the law of three is prior to the law of seven.

I am impressed by the conciseness and apparent completeness of this formulation: “An organism is itself an extremely complex coherent but partially and continually changing vibratory pattern. When a critical amount of coherence is lost, the organism dies” (52). This sentence is interesting: “The inexorable increase in entropy in the universe claimed by modern physics could be seen as the result of two related deficiencies in its worldview: the virtual exclusion of consciousness and an incomplete understanding of time” (72-73).

I might suggest that at least one example of the “disharmonized sol” (59) can be found in the movement to being-presence in a state of transformed contemplation that is, the movement of the octave turns inwards, hence the need for “absolute quiet”.

I sense a great truth in the concept of “Indra’s net” (75). I have, from time to time, used a similar but less satisfactory image to express an insight.

Wertenbaker’s treatment of the changing of geometric forms mirroring the changing of time (76-77) made me wonder if it was not possible that one value of “sacred geometry” may be to model what can occur in reality, but in abstract, symbolic and hence more comprehensible manner (see also his comments on perspective transformation, 80-82).

Wertenbaker is to be commended for his reading of J.G. Bennett and A.G.E. Blake, whose important bodies of work are too often overlooked (see, e.g. 71 and 85). I may be wrong, but I sense rather than assess that his treatment relating space to fermions and time to bosons (91-92) may explain, in concrete terms, something of the different cosmoses in the Ray of Creation.

I agree with him that the Pythagorean numbers are “intriguing” (119), but – without meaning this disdainfully or vulgarly – what follows from it?

Although I had to read the book slowly, and even then tired in the last twenty pages, it is, I think I have demonstrated, I did endeavour to read this book. It sharpens the mind in such a way that at times it touches the feeling – and now this is the final point I wish to make, and it relates to what I said about ideas and theory being practical, or at least having the potential to be so: the feelings which are touched by ideas like the ones in this book are higher and more subtle ideas. One cannot fly too close to them for too long: one must approach, withdraw, digest, approach once more, and so on. That, I think, is another aspect of the pattern of the enneagram: it both conceals and reveals the mystery of recurrence.

And now, in September 2021, I have completed reading volume 1 of Bennett’s The Dramatic Universe. I hold to my views of Wertenbaker’s book, but I must add this: I found Wertenbaker’s book interesting, but Bennett’s is of a higher order altogether.

On 18 November 2023, as I prepare my study of Bennett for publication within two months, I am – for what it is worth – more persuaded that it is the contemplative exercises, and then perhaps the Movements, which will help one put Gurdjieff’s ideas into practice. This book is too abstract, too cold, to make any difference. But what would be valuable would be to build something like the Djamichunatra, where any knowledge of geometry we had could be used to produce a “conscious building” (see my forthcoming book for this astounding claim made by Bennett) where the movements and exercises can be practised in a unique and objectively helpful condition.

Joseph Azize, 16 May 2019, revised 13 September 2021 and 18 November 2023.


  1. I am often left with a “So what?” regarding sacred geometry treatises as well.
    For a study of a completely different order engage
    Written by Danish Freemason Tons Brunes, it offers much to fruitfully ponder.
    Additionally, in its original edition, the books’ physical format and layout reflect much of the beauty of its stated theories and ideas.
    Do attempt to locate in a library’s collection as marketplace resale is wildly inflated.

  2. “…his treatment reacting space to fermions and time to bosons (91-92) may explain, in concrete terms, something of the different cosmoses in the Ray of Creation.”

    Consider: Bosons are associated with energy (massless, spaceless, timeless) while fermions are associated with mass (matter, space, time).

    When bosons, such as photons, collide with existing EM fields and their associated particles (fermions, such as electrons in arrangements of atoms of matter), they split into any number of fermions themselves (particle decay). Energy becomes mass or, in the least, more material.

    In esoteric terms, Spirit becomes Matter. Unity becomes Duality. Descending Ray of Creation. Consider the bosonic energy pouring from the core of the galaxy and radiating in a spinning spiral to form the galactic arms, the suns, the planets, the moons, and everything on these cosmic concentrations… Ray of Creation… bosonic to fermionic. The further from the core, the more dense, the more material, the darker, the lower in the Ray of Creation.

    Consider that for every fermion (e.g. electron), there is an anti-fermion (e.g. positron). However, science cannot find all the anti-fermions, which situation they call “broken symmetry.” Where are all the “missing” anti-fermions? If we were to find them and bring them together, the manifest universe would dissolve into Light. The key to this paradox is CONSCIOUSNESS. The lower the consciousness, the more disconnected, the darker, the more we cannot see our “missing” anti-fermions. Said more simply, we are asleep to who we are.

    Sleep maintains the visible cosmos.

    Consider that lower emotions (G. calls them “negative” but they are more accurately “polarised”) are akin to fermions, as are our usual thoughts. At the extreme, it’s “this or that” and nothing in between… no visible third force to bring together visible “this” and hidden “that”… the world of “a thousand things.”

    Yet, with inner Work and introspection, one may realise that for every lower thought or emotion, there exists a complementary opposite thought or emotion, angel or devil. Who has seen the secret impulses within us that we do not act upon but which are ever there in the wings, that devil on the left shoulder or the angel on the right? But we don’t generally see this, because we are identified with our visible, expressed lower thoughts and emotions and with expressing these willy-nilly, continually attached to the descending Ray of Creation. We have tunnel vision. We are fragmented… a collection of small “I’s”… akin to fermionic matter when it is separated from its anti-matter, manifesting in all kinds of polarised ways.

    We must find our anti-matter, so to speak, lighting up the dark spaces with the light of consciousness… to Know Thyself.

    Bosons such as photons (energy/light), on the other hand, have no such polarity. This is akin to G’s higher emotions. It is also akin to higher thought that brings together opposites into a higher understanding… paradox becomes metadox. The “light” of Understanding.

    Physicists understand that fermionic matter is associated with time whereas bosonic matter/energy is associated with timelessness (relatively). Einstein’s famous equation e=mc squared and his General Theory of Relativity say that if we accelerate fermionic matter to the speed of bosonic light, mass becomes energy/light, space contracts to a point, and time contracts to timelessness. An observer at the speed of light would experience the universe as entirely Here and Now… omnipresent.

    The journey of fermions back to bosons… from mass to energy… from Matter to Spirit… is the ascending movement of the Ray of Creation, from creature to Creator, from negative (polarised) emotion and thought to positive (unpolarised) emotion and thought, from movement to stillness, from noise to silence, from everywhere to Here, from time to timelessness, from sleep to Presence. This ascent requires three forces, not two. A third force must be deliberately “inserted” between our polarities. First, though, we must see/find our anti-matter… that which is hidden in the darkness of the psyche. We must see the truth of WHAT we are before we can know WHO we are in essence.

    When we Work, we are doing nuclear fusion, so to speak, bringing fermion and anti-fermion together, turning our fermionic matter into more bosonic energy and, in the process, creating higher bodies on a higher energetic/material level. While we cannot actually create nuclear fusion in the body, as this would cause our bodies to explode and dissolve, on a higher level, working with higher forces, we can bring together our disparate parts, one fermion and anti-fermion at a time, shining a light in the dark, so to speak, which creates higher particles of light… the substance of higher bodies, as well as the light of understanding, which, in turn correspond to higher realms.

    But it’s also all relative. What is light on one level is darkness on the next higher level. What is perceived as ethereal on one level is material on the next higher level. What is a boson on one level is a fermion to a higher level. We are talking about the construction of the cosmos according to the law of octaves and according to the law of three… G’s table of hydrogens and arrangement of triads. Our physical body is dense compared to the next higher body, but the next higher body (Kesdjan) is dense compared to the next higher body (the “soul”). The higher blends with the lower to create the middle, higher for the preceding lower and lower for the preceding higher, i.e. we must use the physical body to create the next higher body with Help from Above. Then, we must use the next higher body (Kesdjan) to create the next higher body, again with Help from Above. On so on.

    Inner fusion is achieved by deliberating bringing the third force within us, appealing to Help from Above, higher “foods,” to create the fusion of our disparate parts… fermions to bosons. Such is the action of the third force, the Holy Spirit. Such is the action on a cosmic scale of Christ. This is the esoteric meaning of bringing Christ into one’s Heart. In the Creation, One became Two, Father begets Son. For the Ascension, Two becomes Three, Jesus the Man becomes Jesus the Christ, and returns to the One, to the Father. Prodigal Son.

    Something like that…

  3. “Bennett’s is of a higher order altogether.” We’re talking about the Bennett who chased one guru after another through the world’s spiritual jungles and ran off to Africa fleeing the imminent collapse of European civilization, right?

    1. Why not examine what Bennett wrote and consider that, rather than dismissing it outright because of his personal flaws? You are using an ad hominem argument, i.e. because Bennett made serious mistakes he can’t have been a great thinker. No. Part of the interest of my book is examining Bennett in all his complexity. And yes, notwithstanding all his lapses of judgment (which I examine in ruthless detail), Bennett soared to heights very few people are known to have reached. Further, many who were acquainted with his very real features of genius followed your argument in reverse: because he has said or done this which is so brilliant, he cannot err. Both approaches are wrong. I try to bring an impartial mind to bear on the man and all his works – and I find the process worthwhile because of the enduring value of what he discovered and – what is more – made of himself.

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