“And the deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion. It is wordless. It is beyond words, and it is beyond speech, and it is beyond concept. Not that we discover a new unity. We discover an older unity. My dear brothers, we are already one. But we imagine that we are not. And what we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are.” - Thomas Merton (Burton, Hart, & Laughlin, 1975, p. 308).
Thomas Merton was one of the most influential spiritual guides of the twentieth century. “We are already one,” he said. The concept of “all as one” is practically universal, found in all major world religions. Even scientific theories of the “big bang” and “intelligent design” point to this all-inclusive reality. The same idea is also found in the Enneagram. This essay will explore the Law of One in the Enneagram as understood from different Eastern and Western spiritual traditions. First, let’s explore the Enneagram’s Law of One.
“What’s the first thing you notice about the symbol?” asks Russ Hudson in his 2009 Enneagram workshop with Fr. Richard Rohr. The answer, is, of course; the circle. At its core, the Enneagram starts with the idea that we are all one; that we come from one source. This notion is captured in the actual symbol of the Enneagram. According to The Wisdom of the Enneagram (Riso & Hudson, 1999), the symbol was reintroduced to the modern world through George Ivanovich Gurdjieff. Gurdjieff taught that the circle represented Divine Law, referring to “unity, wholeness, and oneness and symbolized the idea that God is One” (p. 20). The Enneagram goes another step further. The Enneagram proposes that we, as humans, have been born from the divine, when formless takes form. At our birth, each is granted a gift or an essence, an essential connection to the divine. Riso and Hudson state, “The fundamental ground of our Being is Essence or Spirit, but it takes a dynamic form we call ‘the soul’” (p. 27). This is represented in the Enneagram as points on the circle. To put it more succinctly, the Law of One states, there is one God (source), and from that one God all is created and exists. Furthermore, we have been created in that likeness and image, literally infused with the spark of the divine within, that it might recognize and realize itself. We are empty and nothing without the source, failing to even take our next breath or heartbeat. We are, in the deepest meaning of the word; one.
Renowned author and religious scholar, Karen Armstrong, offers another perspective regarding the Law of One. Armstrong is an expert in the Axial Age of ideology, particularly the Abrahamic traditions, starting with Judaism which birthed both Christianity and Islam. Ironically, says Armstrong, neither Jesus, nor Muhammad desired to start a new religion, but rather they intended to renew and breathe new life into the traditional Jewish belief of one God. In spite of this, new religions were founded and the concept of one God, creator of all, became central to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Armstrong adds depth to this concept, stating, “Judaism, Christianity and -- to a lesser extent -- Islam have all developed the idea of a personal God…” (1993, p. 209). Armstrong discusses Sufi mysticism similarly, stating, “God was not a separate, external reality and judge but somehow one with the ground of each person’s being” (p. 227). This personal God of Abrahamic religions is considered the source of all and, to differing extents, is believed to be within us. In these faith traditions, this one God should be surrendered to so the “divine will” may live through the person. She states, “Muhammad’s religion would be known as islam, the act of existential surrender that each convert was expected to make to al-Lah” (p. 142). In other words, risking oversimplification, the core beliefs of the patriarchal Abrahamic traditions can be boiled down to: 1) there is one God; 2) God is in us, and; 3) we are to surrender our will to "Him." This, in essence, is the Enneagram’s Law of One.
Armstrong continues, relating this Oneness to Eastern world religions as well. She states that the practices of Christian mysticism “result in a sense of unity of all things…an experience that is clearly akin to that produced by contemplatives in nontheistic religions like Buddhism” (p. 221). She says the ideologies born in the Axial Age agreed that “human life contained a transcendent element that was essential” (1993, p. 39). There is something beyond us that is also in us. In Hinduism, “All is Brahman” (Devega & Gaurkee, 2012, p.108), and at the same time, “the atman is the Brahman,” which loosely means, the individual soul is the cosmic soul (Carroll, 2015). Even in Taoism is the desire to seek unity in the state of balance. The Tao says, “The Great Way is universal” (Cleary, 1991, p. 30). Authors Jessica L.T. Devega and Christine Ortega Gaurkee hint at an energy moving through us, stating that “humans should allow Tao to do what Tao will do” (2012, p. 147). This sounds paradoxically familiar to the source living through the individual.
Richard Rohr says, all religion is metaphor and, if something is true, it’s true everywhere (Rohr, 2009). My interpretation of all this is; there is a universal law in effect. The divine spark in us calls to the divine source. This divine spark reminds us of a home we have lost; deep calls unto deep and like unto like. As a geographic and cultural member of the western Christian tradition, this could be called the little “i am” inside the big “I AM,” also known as, “Christ in me.” Author Jim Marion, in his book, Putting on the Mind of Christ, says we are not merely human beings, “but are now, and have always been, nothing less than immortal, unlimited, divine Spirit” (2011, p. 14). As French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said, we are not humans having a spiritual encounter, we are spiritual beings having a human encounter (Anderson, 2003).
Regardless the tradition, people use different words with similar meaning. The wisdom teachings, including the Law of One of the Enneagram, are consistent. We are parts of the whole. In all ways, we are one. To bring this essay to a close, I’d like to end with a quote from Father Richard Rohr emphasizing the power and significance of our mindset:
The root of violence is the illusion of separation—from God, from Being itself, from being one with everyone and everything. When you don’t know you are connected and one, you will invariably resort to some form of violence to get the dignity and power you lack… To be clear, it is inconceivable that a true believer would be racist, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, homophobic, or bigoted toward any group or individual, especially toward the poor, which seems to be an acceptable American prejudice. In order to end the cycle of violence, our fight must flow from our authentic identity as Love.