Chief Feature and Types

Separate to the Enneagram Laws, another of Gurdjieff’s ideas included helping people to see their “Chief Feature” - or one’s “Idiot”. (in other places this is called the Petty Tyrant)

Our Chief Feature is a quality of false personality that keeps us locked in our ego self. In many ancient mystery traditions and the teachings of Mr Gurdjieff , it is our identification with the false personality that maintains a form of “sleep-state”. Gurdjieff taught that our normal human condition of consciousness is a form of waking-sleep. In this way, “Man” (as in all human-kind) is not fully formed – not fully mature, and cannot be considered to be truly evolved. (ISM page 226)

One of the many Gurdjieff aphorisms is “That which keeps us asleep, can be used to wake us up”. Thus, discovering our Chief feature can be a way to help us to stay awake.

In our modern approach to the Enneagram typology, we learn our type in order to know what it is that is keeping us stuck in habitual attitudes and behaviours. If we come to know our “Chief Feature” of the type, then we can use this as a way to stay awake to ourselves, “catch ourselves in the act” We do this through “Presence” and “Mindfulness” Practices.

NOTE: It is not clear if the Gurdjieff reference to “types”, (page 246 ISM) was the same as the “Idiots” – which he would bestow on people during the “Toast of the Idiots” during a special meal event. What is clear is that in the Gurdjieff system of Idiots, there is a positive and a negative version of the same Idiot. Gurdjieff also asserted that in order to understand types and distinguish them, we must start with observing ourselves:

Gurdjieff Aphorisms

“That which takes us asleep can be used to wake us up”

“Every stick has two ends”

The greater the understanding, the fewer the words”

 “To see your real character, watch your imagination”

“No man is friend, no man is enemy, all are teachers”

“Think what you feel, and feel what you think”

“We are only influenced because we allow it”

“Speak  to no one who desires not to listen”

“Every emotion has its opposite. To be free must transcend both”

“Remember yourself, always and everywhere

“In order to know one’s type one must make a good study of one’s life,  one’s whole life from the very beginning; one must know why, and how, things have happened.”
(page 247 ISM)