SAINTS & CHRISTIAN ZEN
Catholics United for the Faith replies:
1) The matter of invoking Gandhi, Martin Luther King and others who are
not only not canonized but were not Catholics should be charitably
brought to the attention of diocesan officials, with copies of your
correspondence kept for your records. Even for a Catholic, one must be
"beatified" before being invoked at a liturgical service (Canon 1187).
Thus, invoking Dorothy Day is also inadmissible because, though her
cause for canonization has been introduced, she has not been beatified
One can privately request the intercession of any faithful
departed Catholic, although praying for the repose of their soul should
be done as well.
2) Zen designates a school/technique of meditation that arose within
Mahayana Buddhism in China in the 6th century A.D. Zen is characterized
by its radical orientation to attain "enlightenment", understood as a
super-clear experience of the original unity of being. It has two
fundamental elements: Zazen and Koan. Zazen is simply the Japanese term
for the upright sitting position with legs crossed used by the
practitioners of Zen. (This position of itself would seem to posit no
particular problem, except for the fact that it can serve as an
enticement to other elements of eastern spirituality which are
irreconcilable with Christianity). Koan exercises, on the other hand,
express the monistic (i.e., all things are one; no essential difference
between man and God) worldview of Mahayana Buddhism, and insofar as they
do this they cannot be accepted. Also, as the technique is often
practiced, it differs essentially from Christian meditation in that its
focus is on the self rather than on God. In conclusion, due to the
prevailing climate of poor spiritual formation of Catholics today, the
common abuses which are taking place in the "adaptation" of eastern
spiritualities to a Christian setting and the pervasiveness of the New
Age movement, it is not prudent to expose Catholics to these techniques.
3) Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J., who wrote the book Catholics and the New
Age (Servant Publications, Ann Arbor, Mich.), says the following, taken
from an article in Our Sunday Visitor on July 5, 1992.
"The enneagram, from the Greek ennea (nine) and gram (line
drawing), is a system of classifying personality types based on the
figure of a circle with nine points on it, [each] connected by lines.
Each point stands for an ego-type that has its own distinctive vice and
virtue. Each can get worse by moving against the arrow.
"I was taught the enneagram in 1972 while a student in the
Jesuit theologate. We used it in our spiritual and social life. But we
noticed we were typing people incorrectly, and interest faded.
"In the '80s, I saw an enneagram industry develop, but the
versions being taught were contradictory. So I did research. The
enneagram is supposed to be ancient Sufi wisdom, thousands of years old.
But the sufis, who are Muslim mystics, aren't that old of a movement.
The diagram itself can't be older than the 14th or 15th century. It was
discovered in the 1890s in Central Asia by a Greek-Armenian occultist
named George Gurdjieff. He got it from a secret brotherhood of Sufis
called the Naqshbandi, who were using it for numerological fortune-
telling. Gurdjieff, a charlatan and a swindler who was into gnosticism,
taught it to his disciples as a symbol of the cosmos. Gurdjieff died in
1949 but left followers. Oscar Ichazo, a Chilean who claimed to have
had out-of-body experiences since childhood and studied all sorts of
psychic practices, learned the enneagram from such a group.
"In the 1960s, Ichazo devised a personality system of nine types
-- each with its animal totem -- matched to the enneagram. Esalen
Institute psychologist Claudio Naranjo, another admirer of Gurdjieff,
collaborated with him. Naranjo spread the enneagram through Esalen
Beside its occult roots, Father Pacwa says, "I have two
criticisms [of enneagrams]. First, it's theological nonsense, suffused
with gnostic ideas. For instance, the nine points of the enneagram are
called the "nine faces of God," which become nine demons turned upside
down. No one should speak that way. . . . And the way the enneagram is
taught is Pelagian -- self- salvation through a man-made technique, not
by God's grace.
"Secondly, this is a psychological system that hasn't been
tested by professional psychologists. We have no independent evidence
that it's true. As a result, enneagram experts -- who aren't
necessarily aware of the occult aspects -- are making up descriptions as
they go along. It's irresponsible to pass this off as true."
And what makes one an expert on the enneagram?
"There are no controls over who is an expert. You wouldn't go
to any professional on that basis. Using the spiritual label guards
them from stage regulations, but they're still giving psychological
advice. I don't have much respect for the enneagram industry at this
Why do audiences accept it?
"They relate to the anecdotes. They recognize that people do
have personality types. But they don't ask if this system is true or
why it's supposed to work and not others. They don't see the potential
for abuse if they start relating to other people by their enneagram
So what's the appeal of the enneagram and other New Age
"Americans are narcissistic already. They're curious about the
self and attempt to take control. They want to short-circuit the
process by joining the in-crowd."
So is there a New Age conspiracy?
"Some like to spread that myth. We Jesuits are very sensitive
about conspiracy theories. Powerlessness breeds them. The New Age
isn't a conspiracy, but it is a danger to organizations and individuals
because it leads people away from Christ and may damage their psyches.
Still, I don't want to underestimate the New Age, especially if it
should get political."
But we can't go witch-hunting either?
Of course not. Use common sense and charity. Challenge New
Agers from sound knowledge of faith and fact. Remember, the point of
Christianity isn't a higher state of consciousness, but an interpersonal
relationship with Christ and with the other members of His Church."
Father Pacwa makes other comments in a July/August 1991 article
in New Covenant.
"The social problems of typing people without their knowledge
may not pertain to the essence of the enneagram, but it is endemic to
enneagram workshops. The enneagram teachers and books give the bad
example of typing people they do not know and who have no chance to make
a workshop to type themselves.
"The books even recommend typing other people in order to deal
with them better. This abuse happens in parishes and retreat houses so
people should know they will encounter this unauthentic way of relating.
"I mentioned moral problems like channeling spirits, I Ching,
horoscopes, drugs, and meditating to remove sins precisely because I
have heard them in enneagram workshops myself. Others claim they
continue to go on in some workshops. People should be alerted to them
before taking the workshops.
"I did mention a priest who teaches others that original sin
begins at age three or four when the ego takes shape. In all
seriousness, Catholics taught me about the "nine faces of God," the
upside-down devil, and essence vs. ego. Beesing, Nogosek and O'Leary
write that Jesus had all nine personality types. These are not
theoretical problems but real situations.
"Some people say the enneagram helps them remove the plank in
their eye and struggle against self-deception. However, a problem
inherent in the system is that people focus on one complex of faults,
allegedly the ego compulsion, and ignore other compulsive behavior. The
enneagram defines their set of compulsions and neglects other issues.
That is not helpful.