#ThinkpieceThursday – Why Nine Character Types?

Thinkpiece Thursday

I’ve often been asked: “Why nine character types?  Why not seven or thirteen or any other number?”

Let’s begin at the beginning. Western societies use a Hindu Arabic base-ten number system. Nine is the terminal numeral before moving to another decade or numeric cycle. The final number, Nine, represents unity, completion, and perfection. In numerology, the world progresses in distinct nine-year cycles. For computer programmers, “999” means “end of file”. The Enneagram is an ancient Sufi teaching that has nine distinct personality points.

Nine is a Symbolic Gateway to Knowledge and Inspiration

The number Nine symbolized a mystical gateway to knowledge across many different cultural traditions. The Greeks, Romans, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and Vikings all used the number nine to guide human beings toward some kind of transcendent truth, knowledge, inspiration or spiritual awareness.

In Greek and Roman Mythology

The Greek God, Zeus, had nine daughters, called the Muses, who orchestrated and presided over all creative endeavors. The Muses were also the daughters of the female titan Mnemosyne who personified remembrance. Muse means one who remembers.

In the ancient Greek and Roman world, all knowledge, and learning were under the patronage of these Muses. They inspired poetry, theater, music, dance, and art. Ancient educational institutions each dedicated a shrine or temple to the Muses. Such a place called as a mouseion, which is the Greek root of the modern word “museum.”

In the Ancient Greek and Roman world, creativity, memory and the passing on of knowledge and inspiration were all inextricably linked with the number nine.

In the Ancient World of Jerusalem

There were nine doors to the holiest part of the Temple in Ancient Jerusalem. These nine doors were the gateway to G_d. Why nine doors? In the Kabbalah, writings on Jewish mysticism, the number nine symbolizes the transcendent world because nine is a threshold number that allows for the transition to the next level of existence (to move from the world of one digit numbers to the world of the two digit numbers i.e., 1 + 9 moves to the next level of two-digit numbers 10 and so on.).

Multiplying by nine also reveals the mirror symmetry among numbers. If any number is multiplied by nine the resulting single digits always add up to nine. For example 2 x 9 = 18 (1 + 8 = 9); 3 x 9 = 27 (2 + 7 = 9), 4 x 9 = 36 (3 + 6 = 9) and so on.

The ancient Hebrews referred to the number nine as a mystical threshold between one world and the next and the symbol of immutable Truth.

In the Muslim World

The Holy month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. The month of Ramadan is traditionally believed to be the time when the Quran (Koran or Muslim Bible) was sent down from heaven, as a guide to living a good and proper life and as a means to learn how to achieve holiness and enter the gateway of salvation.

Nine and the World and Underworld

Viking mythology describes the Cosmos as being composed by nine worlds. The Ancient Mayans believed that human consciousness and history was built on nine distinct underworlds. The Divine Comedy, an epic poem written by the Italian, Dante Alighieri, in the fourteenth century, describes the author’s allegorical journey through the afterlife. In The Inferno, Dante describes nine circles of hell. In each circle, the sinners are guilty of one of three kinds of sin.

Three is a Number of Unity and Completion

Three is also considered a mystical number. Nine is divided equally into three parts with three in each part. Since ancient times the number three has symbolized unity and completion. The trinity of life is composed of substance (or form), intellect (or intelligence) and soul (or life essence). Three also symbolizes the trinity of the individual person as head (intellect), heart (emotion) and hand (physical being or physical action). Or the trinity of the family: father, mother, and child.

In Christian Tradition


In Christianity, God is divine as the Trinity. According to the Catholic Encylopedia: “The Trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the Christian religion– the truth that in the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these Three Persons being truly distinct one from another. Thus, in the words of the Athanasian Creed: “the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God.” The Holy Trinity forming a single God of unity and completion.

In Buddhist Teaching

According to the Buddhist tradition, all phenomena (dharmas) are marked by three characteristics, sometimes referred to as the Dharma Seals. The first seal, Anatta, is the unchanging, permanent essence of the soul. The second, Anicca, is the inconstant, unsteady, and impermanence of physical being. The third, Dukkha, is the self or world as it perceived by the individual and others.

In Hindu Tradition

Hindu teaching divides the cosmos into a set of three planes. Bhuloka is the “Earth world,” and is the physical plane of existence Antarloka is “Inner or in-between world,” and is the world of dreams and imagination. Sivalok is the “World of Siva,” and is the realm of the Gods, the saints and the most highly evolved souls.

The Magic Square

A magic square is three sets of three. It is created when each single digit number is used only once, but the horizontal, vertical and diagonal sums are all equal. (4 + 9 + 2 = 15 and 4 + 3 + 8 = 15 and so on). The sum 15 is also divisible by 9 and equals 3 (the number of each square in the row or diagonal).

The magic square was considered a sacred and powerful symbol in the Ancient Islamic, Tibetan, Buddhist, Celtic, Indian and Jewish traditions. The Chinese patterned their architectural temples along the harmonious principles of the magic square.

If this diagram looks familiar, you might recognize it as a basis for the popular 9 square by 9 square Sudoku number puzzle.

Now you know why there are 9 character types- time to check out some articles on all of them, and to learn more you can purchase my eBooks on the ETB store.

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