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Bob Goff's son wants you to kickstart the Enneagram game

Wait. What?

Bestselling US author and popular Christian speaker Bob Goff’s son is Richard. And Richard is seeking your support for The Enneagame, a card game based on an ancient personality assessment that is now being employed widely in Christian churches, office teams and right through to The Avengers.

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Goff tweeted this about his son Richard’s project and asked his 24,000 followers to check out the Kickstarter project.

For those who haven’t heard of the enneagram – or have seen the enneagram diagram and been alarmed by its star-like image inside a circle – relax. It has got nothing to do with a pentagram and/or satanic worship.

The enneagram is an ancient personality typing system that has gained recent popularity in certain Christian circles. Using the enneagram’s tools, people self-diagnose their ‘type’ (a number between one and nine) and their ‘wing’ (a number that is an adjacent number to their type to the enneagram diagram).

OK, try to keep up. Once your type and wing are uncovered, you can learn about the challenges and opportunities typically experienced by that type – including their basic fear and desire.

For example, The Enneagram Institute says of those people who are typed as a “four”: “Fours are self-aware, sensitive, and reserved. They are emotionally honest, creative, and personal, but can also be moody and self-conscious. Withholding themselves from others due to feeling vulnerable and defective, they can also feel disdainful and exempt from ordinary ways of living. They typically have problems with melancholy, self-indulgence, and self-pity. At their best: inspired and highly creative, they are able to renew themselves and transform their experiences.”

Fours, the institute says, have a “Basic Fear” that “they have no identity or personal significance” and a “Basic Desire” to “find themselves and their significance”.

The enneagram has gained prominence with some Christians in recent years.

In addition, these type profiles are presented on a scale of emotional health. So the most “Healthy Fours” are “profoundly creative, expressing the personal and the universal, possibly in a work of art. Inspired, self-renewing and regenerating: able to transform all their experiences into something valuable: self-creative.” In contrast, the most “unhealthy Fours” are “despairing, feel hopeless and become self-destructive, possibly abusing alcohol or drugs to escape.”

That’s all going to sound like superstitious mumbo-jumbo to some, or like the same old personality typing to others. But there’s a few reasons why the enneagram has gained such prominence with Christians in recent years.

Firstly, the enneagram provides scope for people to develop over the course of an entire lifetime. Within the enneagram, there are layers of complexity which include what type a person may move to when in stress or in contentment, and how different types relate to one another.

Secondly, there is a handful of influential Christian practitioners who’ve not only made the enneagram accessible to a wider Christian audience, but gained the enthusiasm of other Christian influencers.

One of these is Episcopal priest, trained psychotherapist and author Ian Cron, whose book about the enneagram The Road Back to You, co-authored with Suzanne Stabile, has sold 160,000 copies. Cron also hosts a podcast called Typology, where he interviews Christian guests about their enneagram type.

Thirdly, the enneagram’s origins are kind of mysterious. It’s really, really old and is believed to have its roots in several wisdom traditions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Even the Desert Fathers get a mention in the enneagram’s origin story. But it wasn’t until the late 1960s that Oscar Ichazo began teaching the enneagram in the form it is known today and from his school in South America, a group of Jesuits brought the enneagram to the US.

Franciscan Bible teacher and author Richard Rohr learned about the enneagram from this group. He wrote one of the first books about the enneagram in English – The Enneagram: a Christian perspective.

Richard Goff’s Enneagame project isn’t entirely unexpected, then. But will it become the game that keeps young adults up late at their next Christian camp?

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