History of the Enneagram
As We Know It Today

The History of the Enneagram, David Daniels and Enneagram Teaching Schools

Enneagram History

The Enneagram is not a theory, it was not created by one person, nor is it a conceptual framework developed by a single someone or a group. Tracing the origins of the Enneagram reveals that it is a phenomenological system that dates back thousands of years and has been discovered and re-discovered in many contemplative traditions. It is now being recognized and discovered by mainstream psychiatry, psychology, and corporate organizational development.

The nine established Enneagram types can be observed primarily by inner self-observation or “meta-cognition,” where the mind observes or “witnesses” its own mind — how our own mind thinks, what motivates us, and the watching of our emotional reactivity as it arises.

Sometimes, a highly skilled Enneagram teacher can determine the Enneagram type of an individual, without incisive inquiry. As one studies the system comprehensively, it becomes clear how it was discovered and expanded on outside of modern psychology. It takes deep contemplation, self-awareness, and concerted self-reflection to step above the routine and patterns of habituated thinking to see our own and others’ minds as they play themselves out.

What we do know is that many of the basic concepts essential to the Enneagram can be sourced from the works of ancient Sufis, Christians, Buddhists, Taoists, Jews (particularly from the Kabbalah, a composition of mystic Jewish teachings), and Greeks (most notably from the philosopher Pythagoras). While the Enneagram symbol also has origins in ancient works, Georgian Philosopher George Invanovich Gurdjieff is credited with both the symbol’s reintroduction to the modern world at the turn of the 20th century and the use of the symbol to describe various cosmic patterns and processes found in nature, music, and the rhythms of daily human life. His school was called The Fourth Way  Reductionistically. The Fourth Way implies someone who has integrated the three intelligence centers of the head, heart, and body.

Gurdjieff taught in Paris during WW11 and for a few years thereafter, until his death in 1949. In the early 1900s, he taught in Moscow. By 1917, he travelled to Istanbul, then made it to France where he taught for years at his “center” in Fontainebleu, a town outside Paris. Through Gurdjieff’s teachings, his students reported gaining intrapersonal freedom by observing how our minds go on “auto-pilot.” One of Gurdjieff’s most famous students was philosopher P.D. Ouspensky.

It was not until the mid-twentieth century, when Bolivian philosopher Oscar Ichazo in his own contemplative work “received” direct knowledge of the nine patterns and synthesized all of these preceding elements (including mathematical laws of the Greeks and the contemplative understandings of human thinking, feeling, sensing centers taught by Gurdjieff in Paris), that the modern Enneagram personality system was born. Ichazo taught the Enneagram in Chile throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, developed a psychological vocabulary influenced by South American psychoanalytic concepts, founding the Arica Institute during that time, and eventually introduced the Enneagram to the United States as one part of his teachings of Protoanalysis within the Arica Institute, which still exists today.

While still in Chile, Ichazo taught psychiatrists John Lilly, M.D. and Claudio Naranjo, M.D., who both eventually returned to the United States. John Lilly taught as part of the Arica Institute with Ichazo. Claudio Naranjo taught the Enneagram in Berkeley, CA and started the process of using more Western psychological terms to describe the nine, type patterns. Because of the precise and exact descriptions of the nine personalities, Naranjo called his Berkeley teachings “Seekers of the Truth.” Naranjo’s 1970’s Berkeley teachings are largely responsible for the widespread use of the system today. Four of his students became influential teachers and led to the three main Enneagram teaching groups in the United States:  Intuitive Healer Helen Palmer, Jesuit Priest Robert Ochs, Transpersonal Psychologist Kathleen Speeth, and Lebanese Metaphysician A.H. Almaas.

David Daniels, M.D. learned the Enneagram from Helen Palmer in 1984 and by 1988, they joined forces and formed the first rigorous training school where students of the Enneagram were certified in an understanding of the system with competencies to teach the system to others, after successful completion of an 18-month program.  It was originally called The Plamer-Daniels Enneagram Professional Training Program (EPTP) and renamed The Narrative Enneagram (TNE) in 2009 to reflect the deep and inner-observed narratives of people describing  their mind, motivations, and emotions at work. This school has trained thousands of. students and has certified approximately 1700 as Enneagram teachers since 1988.

Shortly after founding the EPTP/The Narrative Enneagram (TNE), David Daniels took a lead role with others co-founding the International Enneagram Association (IEA), which is carried forth today with a very active and growing membership.  David’s idea with the IEA was to form an association and international community that would reach beyond the thinking of any one Enneagram teacher, Enneagram training school, or Enneagram school of thought. David was a true “bridge builder” and the initiator and leader of IEA’s cooperative inception, that which was foundational to forming the IEA.

David then brought his colleague Helen Palmer in to co-direct the conference along with other leading teachers from around the world. The first International Enneagram Association Conference was held at and sponsored by Stanford University in 1994 (see a copy of the first IEA Conference!). Because David Daniels, M.D. was an active Stanford University Clinical Professor at Stanford University Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, he was able to secure Department of Psychiatry co-sponsorship with Dr. Alan Schatzberg, chairman of the psychiatry department and Dr. Michel Ray, professor, Stanford University Business School.

Enneagram History and David’s Place in It, and the Enneagram Teacher Training Schools

David encountered The Enneagram in 1984 when he took a class on intuition and healing from Helen Palmer in Berkeley, CA. Helen invited David to her Enneagram narrative-panels course. In a panels course, five individuals of each of the nine types were interviewed by a trained Enneagram teacher in front of a live audience. In observing how people were describing their thoughts, emotions, and attentional style, people in attendance would generally have their own “ah-ha” moment. The ah-ha would so often be one of  “I’ve been found out” or embarrassment in conjunction with realization that a group of other people think “…just like I do and are driven by the same motivations and emotions as me!”

David immediately realized his own Enneagram type, which he affectionately called The Loyal Skeptic. But, as the 1984 panels course proceeded, David recalls immediately recognizing the nine personality types as the patterns he had observed over his 22 years (at that time) of psychotherapy work. This experience included eight years as a full-time faculty member and 14 years as a clinical faculty member in Stanford’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, as well 14 years (at that time) as a private practicing therapist.

With his intensive background in psychotherapy, teaching, and clinical practice, Dr. David Daniels accomplished what many prior Enneagram enthusiasts struggled to achieve – he brought scientific backing to the Enneagram. His Essential Enneagram Test (available also in book form) was the first and is still one of the only scientifically validated Enneagram personality typing tests available today. It was developed out of a study of 970 people at Stanford University and first published as the Stanford Enneagram Discovery Inventory and Guide (SEDI).

Perhaps, however, Dr. David Daniels’ greatest contribution to the modern Enneagram was the development of one of the most esteemed and rigorous Enneagram training schools: The Enneagram Professional Training Program (EPTP). Co-founded by Dr. David Daniels and Helen Palmer at Vallambrosa, Menlo Park, CA in 1988, the EPTP has since blossomed and was renamed The Narrative Enneagram (TNE) in 2009. The Narrative Enneagram is one of today’s two main schools of Enneagram training.  The Narrative Enneagram school distinguishes itself by innovatively teaching the system and helping people determine their type through a series of individual interviews conducted by an Enneagram facilitator called, “panels.” The Narrative Enneagram describes the personality types as: The Perfectionist (1), The Giver (2), The Performer (3), The Romantic (4), The Observer (5), The Loyal-Skeptic (6), The Epicure (7), The Protector (8), and The Mediator (9). Today, the institute offers a variety of Enneagram workshops, but no longer trains or certifies teachers.

The second main school is The Enneagram Institute, which was founded by experts Don Riso (who is credited with creating the Enneagram’s Levels of Development) and Russ Hudson, and is located in Stone Ridge, New York, 1997 Unlike The Narrative Enneagram, The Enneagram Institute calls the nine personality types slightly different titles: The Reformer (1), The Helper (2), The Achiever (3), The Individualist (4), The Investigator (5), The Loyalist (6), The Enthusiast (7), The Challenger (8), and The Peacemaker (9). Though different in their teaching approaches, both schools have certified tens of thousands of teachers, therapists, faith-based leaders, and healers worldwide.

A third, smaller, and more regional Enneagram school called The Diamond Approach was founded in Colorado in 1976, by A. H. Almaas, another top student of Naranjo’s. The Diamond Approach, though not as widespread in its influence as The Narrative Enneagram or The Enneagram Institute, further synthesizes the Enneagram with both Freudian and Reichian psychology as well as Buddhist, Sufi, and Christian mysticism.

Dr. David Daniels always recognized and celebrated the deep, rich, and complex history of the Enneagram, which began so many centuries before him. Thanks to both his efforts to validate the Enneagram through his research and his devoted sharing of the system through his creation of The Narrative Enneagram, Dr. David Daniels has widened the field, earning himself a place within this rich history and by helping to ensure that the Enneagram’s continued dissemination will only continue in the future.


  • Turn of the 20th century – George Gurdjieff reintroduces the Enneagram symbol to the modern world and uses it to describe various processes found in nature, music, and the rhythm of daily life.
  • Mid 20th century – Oscar Ichazo synthesizes the ancient mystical teachings and the Enneagram symbol, creating the modern Enneagram personality system. Ichazo teaches Claudio Naranjo, who brings the Enneagram to Berkeley, California in the United States, developing a more western psychological nomenclature.
  • 1954 – David’s first year at Stanford University School of Medicine.
  • 1958 – David finishes medical school and begins his residency.
  • 1962 – David finishes his residency and joins Stanford’s full-time faculty.
  • 1968 – While still a member of Stanford’s full-time faculty, David is prompted by the assassinations of MLK & Robert Kennedy to form “The Committee on Violence.” The Committee results in many publications, including a publication in the premier journal “Science,” which later is adapted into his book Violence and the Struggle for Existence. During this time, David also participates on the President’s Committee on the Causes of Violence.
  • 1970 – David leaves the full-time Stanford faculty after eight years and joins Stanford’s clinical faculty; he remains on the Stanford University Medical School Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences clinical faculty until his death in 2017.
  • 1976 – A. H. Almaas founds The Diamond Approach in Colorado.
  • 1984 – David discovered the Enneagram and begins using it in his Palo Alto private practice.
  • 1988- Helen Palmer and David co-found the Enneagram Professional Training Program (EPTP), which in 2009 is renamed The Narrative Enneagram (TNE).
  • 1994 – Helen Palmer and David co-chair the first international Enneagram conference at Stanford University. As a consequence of this conference, Helen Palmer, David Daniels, and a few other co-founders establish The International Enneagram Association (IEA).
  • 1997 – Don Riso and Russ Hudson found The Enneagram Institute.
  • 1998 – David publishes the Stanford Enneagram Discovery Inventory and Guide (SEDI) – based on a study out of Stanford University of 970 individuals, the first scientifically validated Enneagram test.
  • 2000 – David retires as a private-practice therapist and instead devotes his time and efforts to the development and promotion of the Enneagram; he teaches worldwide until two years before his death in 2017.
  • 2000 – David’s book The Essential Enneagram: The Definitive Personality Test and Self-Discovery Guide is published by Harper Collins.
  • 2009 – David releases the second edition of The Essential Enneagram: The Definitive Personality Test and Self-Discovery Guide published by Harper Collins, which as of 2021, sold over 250,000 copies.
  • 2017 – In early May 2017, David and his co-author Suzanne Dion complete their working draft of their book on the Enneagram and relationships
  • 2018 – David’s final book, co-authored with Suzanne Dion, The Enneagram, Relationships and Intimacy: Understanding One Another Leads to Loving Better and Living More Fully is published on the KDP platform. The book has received 5-star reviews and critical acclaim by therapists who use the Enneagram in their clinical practice.