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The enneagram of the passions



Interview sith Br. Lluís Serra

24/03/2012: Spain

Brother Lluís Serra Llansana, Province of the Hermitage, has been collaborating for some years in the programmes of formation of the Escorial. He animates seminars on self knowledge by means of the enneagram, the subject on which he presented six years ago a doctoral thesis at the Ramon Llull University of Barcelona, where he works in positions of direction and teaching. He has just published the book: “El eneagrama de las pasiones. Anatomía psicológica de las pasiones dominantes” (The enneagram of the passions. Psychological anatomy of the dominant passions), which will be followed by another: “El eneagrama de las relaciones” (The enneagram of relationships).
Below we reproduce an interview with the author of the book


What does the enneagram bring to the personal formation of brothers and laity?

LluisIntegration and foundation. Without a psychological base, one can be badly deceived about oneself. Saint Teresa of Jesus had a clear intuition about it: « I think that one day of humble self knowledge, even if it costs us much affliction and work, is a greater grace than many days of prayer. » But that is not enough. It is necessary to be open to God and spirituality. Without integration of these elements, there is confusion.

In your book, you speak of the passions...

I present the tradition of the monks, begun by Evagrius of Pontus and John Cassian, in the late of the new advances in psychology. The passions are the emotional responses of the ego which are transformed into anger, pride, vanity, jealousy, avarice, fear, gluttony, lust, sloth. They are very (self-) destructive attitudes.

Are you referring to the capital sins?

In moral language, yes. I am trying to reveal the psychological substrata of the capital sins, which I refer to as the 'dominant passions' in the book. I build a bridge between psychology and morals. Without a psychological conscience, there would be no moral conscience. One can forbid, but doing this does not provide formation. To accompany and propose: an extremely important task for educators.

Speaking of « passions » can seem « old hat » to the youth of today...

My experience teaches me the opposite. They are passionate for self knowledge. We have taught them to look at the external world and that is not enough. Technology fascinates them, but the interior world is incredible. In the Divine Comedy, Dante does not go by himself; he is lovingly accompanied towards a voyage of initiation which admits no turning back. There we penetrate to the core of education. As in Matrix, it is a matter of swallowing the red tablet in order to penetrate into the truth of oneself.

How can one combat the passions?

It is necessary to wake up and be conscious to open oneself to the interior life. We act in a mechanical way, we adopt compulsive behaviour, we do not discover the truth about ourselves, we show ourselves incapable of loving (ourselves) and we lose our freedom. To disarm an explosive, it is first of all necessary to see how it was made. We have to study our ways of thinking and feeling, our instincts... It’s no sinecure!

Is the enneagram useful for that?

One could compare it with a GPS which can give us directions, but we are the ones who have the steering wheel and who decide. The dominant passions explain clearly what is happening in the actual world. Without avarice, the economic and financial  crisis which is engendering so much suffering, especially among the poor classes would not have come about. The cult of image and success, features proper to vanity, prevents us from living in depth and transforms us into slaves of appearances.

Don’t the passions have negative connotations?

Without a doubt. They are expressions of the ego which causes so much damage in us. In being aware of and disarming them, opens us to virtue, essence, love, that is, everything we are looking for.

Have you given any courses in this discipline to teachers? And with what results?

Yes, but I lay down one condition: participants can be invited, but never forced. In only a few days of exchanges, they know each other more profoundly than after three years of ‘normal’ relations. One leaves behind superficial relations and enters into a  constructive and sincere dynamic.

Interview by Br. Alberto Ricica

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