Enneagram in Light of Neuroscience ON ENNEAGRAM MONTHLY

What messages have the symbols and models of the archetypes held steady throughout time, that are within the collective unconscious?
Jung, the famous Swiss psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and an- thropologist stated that the archetype is like an invisible model that determines what structure an object will assume; for exam-ple, how a crystal will form. He considered numbers themselves to be numinous and sacred entities. He described them as “an archetype of the order that became conscious.”
Pythagoras believed that “the whole universe was harmony expressed in numbers” and that mathematics was the ultimate essence of reality. Similar to the Pythagoreans St. Augustine too believed that everything had numerical relationships and it was up to the mind to seek and investigate the secrets of these relationships or else have them revealed by divine power. St. Augustine wrote “Numbers are the universal language of-fered by the divine to humans as a method for the confirma-tion of what is truth.”
Archetypes as collective representations of the inherited unconscious, are the common heritage of humanity, found in the myths and legends of all civilizations. In life there can be as many archetypes as there are characteristic situations we can see in typical and recognizable patterns of human behavior, for example, as symbolized by the nine Ennea-gram types.
On the psychological level, the Enneagram sees human intelligence as expressed in three fundamental ways that are related to the Instinctive, Mental or Emotional centers.

These three centers correspond to three different ways of being. According to the evolutionary vision of MacLean, it’s as if we had three different brains, each characterized by behaviors and deep rooted connota-tions of character that are typical of the center itself.
Reptilian Brain

The first brain, reptilian (instinctive center), is connected to automatism, the spontaneous and unconscious acts, for example the heart and the di-gestive system. This center is working to ensure the physical and psychological survival of the individual, it is the source where energy, motivation and actions originate.
Enneagram types 1, 8 and 9 use primarily this center to adequately address the different situations of life. The digestive system and the area of the so-lar plexus are very involved here, hence we call them “belly types.”
At the level of mind, our memories, including those stored mostly unconsciously, are strongly related to this center. Nobel laureate Eric Richard Kandel describes the long-term memory system as two-fold: the explicit, autobiographic that can be expressed in words, and also the implicit underground memory, not remembered, as it cannot be verbalized, as it has been created by sensations and emotions, rather than words; a somatic memory, that are all connected to the reptilian brain.
In the first two years of infancy experiences are mostly recorded by this form of memory which is mostly managed in the center for instinctive emo-tions, the amygdala. Given that such memories were mostly not conscious, they can’t easily be remem-
bered, recorded or released, without precise psycho-body work.
This unconscious memory is in fact the base, the backbone, the “mother” of the individual’s personal-ity. It continues and endures over time, influencing the individuals emotional, cognitive and affective life.
I would say it is here where the enneagram archetypes and their functions are determined.

Limbic Brain

The feeling center, the limbic brain, is the place for emotions, affectivity, aspirations and relationships. It is mainly concerned with the present. Types 2, 3 and 4 use primarily this part of the brain as it’s centered around relationships with the people.
It is here that the heart and circula-tory system are mostly involved.
In neuroscience, psycho neuro en-docrino immunology (PNEI), investi-gates the relationship between the psyche, the nervous system, the en-docrine and the immune system. It is through neuropeptides, the small protein-like molecules (peptides) used by neurons to communicate via pathways with each other and to transmit the signals needed between the brain and the body. The neuro-peptides are signaling molecules as they convey emo-tions and psychological as well as physical stimuli that elicit and maintain the unconscious responses in every part of the body.
It is well established now that emotions are, first of all, primarily physiological event, closely related to the unconscious, to the experiences, although not remem-bered, that will affect all mind and body functions.


The neocortex, finally, is the seat of the higher-order brain functions that defines human possibili-ties concerned with making sense of the self and the world by using reasoning, imagination, and the study of different possibilities and perspectives.
The enneagram “head types” 5, 6, and 7, use pri-marily this center for information and rationalization.
This operative center consists of the central nervous system, the brain, and the spine.
According to the neuroscientist Goldberg Elk-honon, the right hemisphere of the human brain deals with what’s new, while the left hemisphere deals with the well-developed and established con-figurations and stereotyped concepts, so all new information is first processed in the right hemi-sphere and then sent to the left where a model is created.
Parts of the right brain, while mainly dealing with emotional processes, are also involved with reason-ing, decision-making and processing of thoughts. It appears that as the brain ages, the ability to learn new things decreases due to an emotional rigidity that dis-courages new discoveries and experiments as well as creating new models.
Coming back to the Enneagram, we find that types 2, 3 and 4 are positioned more in the right hemisphere connected to news, and analysis of the emotional content of experiences; whereas types 5, 6 and 7 occupy the left side of the model, assigned with the analysis and meaning of words and the creation of operational models. Above, the instinctive center with types 8, 9 and 1, takes in the dialogue between the left and right cerebral hemispheres and offers a visceral gut response.
The personality masks serve to protect the indi-vidual’s survival and are nothing more than a con-sequence of the interaction between the centers, be-tween genetics and epigenetics.
In conclusion, everything is in a state of constant vibration, including the human DNA. We can say that the rhythm and pace respond to different emo-tional states. Scholars speak of a closely woven net-work that is connecting all matter through vibration-al events.
DNA acts like an antenna, as an electric capacitor, an oscillating circuit able to receive and transmit elec-tromagnetic waves and therefore information.
The nine ‘traps’, or ‘passions’ of the Enneagram (pride, envy, anger, sloth, avarice, gluttony, lust, de-ception and fear) symbolize impediments of charac-ter that prevent energy to flow freely, by hampering the activation of genes within the DNA?
On the other hand, could it be that moving in the opposite direction of the Enneagram arrows, would be a way to activate the motion towards integration of psyche and soma?

Liliana Atz is the creator of EnneaMediCina. A psychologist, adept at Traditional Chinese Medicine, and a Tai Chi Chi Kung and Shiatsu trainer, Liliana has also authored EnneaMediCina as well as a num-ber of trade articles and publications.


EnneaMediCina. Le Cinque Vie dell’Anima – Liliana Atz
In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind – Eric Kandel
The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Un-conscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present – Eric Kandel
The New Executive Brain: Frontal Lobes in a Complex
World – Elkhonon Goldberg
The Wisdom Paradox: How Your Mind Can Grow
Stronger As Your Brain Grows Older – Elkhonon Gold-berg
Sentieri verso la libertà – Arnaldo Pangrazzi

First part of the article
Second part of the article