by Paul Matthew St. Pierre
Signs without wonders
BIBLICAL CHARACTERS AND THE ENNEAGRAM: IMAGES OF TRANSFORMATION, by Diane
Tolomeo, Pearl Gervais, and Remi J. De Roo. Newport Bay, paper.
In my long career as a reader, I can recall only three books that I was
unable to complete after undertaking my readings: Malcolm Lowry’s October
Ferry to Gabriola (1971), James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake (1939), and Marcel
Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu (1913-1927).
Lowry’s novel, which was published posthumously, I found disorganized;
Joyce’s novel seemed abstruse, or I seemed ignorant of its allusions; and,
reading Proust in French, I deemed the eight-part cycle interminable in its
impressionism; but in each case I was able to finish my reading after taking
the book up again.
Were I not required to read this book through to the end in my duty as
The B.C. Catholic book reviewer, I am afraid I would have had to add
Biblical Characters and the Enneagram: Images of Transformation to my list
of unreadable books. I am quite sure, however, that, unlike the others, I
would never have found the courage to pick this one up again and take it
through to “30.”
I must admit that I may be in the minority in my critical position on
this book, because its front pages feature 10 very positive blurbs by
readers of advance copies and by reviewers, including Joan Chittister, OSB;
Bernard Daly, a former publisher of The Catholic Register; John English, SJ;
and Douglas Todd, the religion and ethics writer of The Vancouver Sun.
With respect, I can conclude only that they are deluded.
Parts of Biblical Characters and the Enneagram are quite
incomprehensible, specifically the enneagram parts. The commentary of Diane
Tolomeo, Pearl Gervais, and Remi J. De Roo (former Bishop of Victoria) on
the figures and stories of Scripture would actually be very good, were it
not bound to the interpretive theory of the enneagram.
What is an enneagram? The authors like to use the word a lot, but, rather
than defining it in the early stages of the book, they prefer to maintain
that enneagrammatic interpretive theory is not inconsistent with Scripture,
Catholic tradition, the Second Vatican Council, the Magisterium, and the
teachings of Pope John Paul II. For example, they credit much of their
interpretive strategy to the author of The Cloud of Unknowing.
I’ll try my best to explain the enneagram. An enneagram is a graphic
sign, or mandala, consisting of a circle inside which are a triangle (the
three angles of which represent body, head, and heart) and a hexad.
The triangle and hexad form nine points of intersection around the
circumference of the circular. Each numbered point may be used to represent
certain personality and character traits in relation to the “centres” of
body, mind, and heart.
In their book, Tolomeo, Gervais, and Bishop De Roo identify and interpret
figures from both the Old and New Testaments according to these nine types.
The methodology is simplistic, reductive gobbledygook, albeit orthodox in
content. (As Dame Edna Everage would say, “I mean this in a kind and caring
The authors read Scripture piously, but they base their interpretations
on the flimsy premise that all people can be reduced to nine basic types. I
mean, that’s fewer than the signs of the zodiac.
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