Divergent and the Enneagram: How Do Humans Respond to a Fallen World?

divergent enneagram

Fair warning: This post contains plot spoilers from all three books in the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, but especially from the third book. While I don’t personally think the information given here will ruin the stories if you haven’t read them, you might disagree, so consider this your opportunity to stop reading. 

I read all three Divergent books in about a two week span- and that’s only because I waited about two weeks before giving in and buying the third one. They were fast, exciting, YA reads, but there was something more that kept me reading. These books are a commentary on humanity and culture and progress and there are probably hundreds of different cultural and spiritual lessons we could tease out from the stories, but one of these themes is different perspectives on how to fix the brokenness in the world (for the record, I don’t like the solution that the main characters ultimately implement, but that is a thought for another day).

I was first introduced to the Enneagram a few months ago while visiting some friends and staying up too late taking online personality quizzes (we’re pretty cool). We all remarked about how strangely specific it was and how it was so accurate that it seemed like it could have been written about us. It gives you a number from 1-9 with each number representing a specific personality subset. It came up again in a book I was reading just after finishing the Divergent series and I spent some time researching the history and purpose of the test (which you can read more about here).

Divergent and the Fallen World

As I researched the Enneagram, I was struck with the resemblance to the world that had been formed in Divergent. In the books, there had been a great war and as a response and a preventative measure against a similar future war, the government isolated personality traits that people lacked that seemed to stir up strife: traits such as dishonesty, cowardice, ignorance, selfishness, and anger. They injected people who seemed to have one specific lack with some kind of science-fiction substance that was meant to make them a well-rounded person (think literally injecting bravery into the most cowardly citizens). The injection actually changed their genetic make-up, so the characteristics were passed down for generations.

Unfortunately, their injected substance was too powerful and made the one problem gene now the person’s defining characteristic- or, at least, the defining characteristic of their children. They had overcompensated for the brokenness in the world and instead were left with a world that had been turned inside out. It created new problems with people who were now brave at the expense of intelligence or honest at the expense of kindness.

The Enneagram and the Fallen World

The Enneagram has a somewhat contested history and purpose, and as time goes on it seems to evolve into whatever anyone wants it to be (an interesting trait in a personality test). However, in the fabric of the Enneagram is the idea that each type has a core spiritual problem that it sees in the world. For example, an Enneagram type 6 is known as “The Loyalist” because of their loyalty and steadfastness. They recognize that this world could do with a little more faith and a little less fear and anxiety. Often, however, a 6 may overcompensate for the lack of faith and honesty they see in the world and become competitive and arrogant.

This isn’t a made up fantasy story and it is an interesting personality test about real people in this real world (even you). We all see the brokenness in the world on some level and we try to make up for it, either at our best or at our worst. I’m a 3 with a strong 2 wing (clearly I’m divergent, ya’ll) and that means that I see laziness and selfishness in the world and I want to change it. At my best, I’m helpful and efficient and consistent, but at my worst I’m critical and dishonest and proud.

The Missing Pieces

The people in the Divergent stories who first chose to participate in the injections actually volunteered to do so, in hopes that their future children would be well-rounded and less prone to violence or strife. They must have recognized their own personality tendencies and been able to imagine, as we can, a world where we don’t have days of being our worst selves.

I’ve tried to imagine what I would do if someone presented me with the option those people were given: to pass on to my children and their children and their children not my criticism and pride but instead a personality that keeps my good qualities and adds in others. Of course, such an injection doesn’t exist (and if it did, rest assured that we would end up much like they did in Allegiant).

In reality, this world is broken, and all of the knowledge of our personality tendencies and shortcomings is not going to change that. So what do we do with the missing pieces?

In The Last Battle, after the old Narnia has passed away and they are first experiencing the new one, the unicorn says:

I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!

The missing pieces show us that there is something more, something missing in this world… But the whole pieces show us that there are beautiful things here too. The new Narnia resembled the old one because there was beauty and magic in the old Narnia. It had once been created and it was good. 

May you seek the new world and its wholeness even as you revel in the beautiful broken here. After all, this Earth was once created Good. And may you see the Good Creator in yourself today; I think you look like Him. 

 

I’m linking up with Chantel over at Jack of All Trades today. Check out some of the other brilliant posts featured as well!

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12 Comments

  1. Hi Rachel. Fascinating introduction to Divergent and the Enneagram. By no means would I consider your post a spoiler as it actually motivated me to read something I might otherwise overlook. I have mixed feelings about anything that deals with people as types .It seems to me that each of us has elements of every trait in differing amounts and that life’s dynamics are equal parts conflict and pendulum between those traits that may be opposite. Either way, you deal with topics that resonate so count me in as your newest subscriber.

    1. Thanks Paul! I agree with you about each of us having many traits in different amounts, which made reading the Divergent books really interesting. I would definitely recommend checking the books out for an easy read!

  2. That makes for a fascinating plot injecting folks with “good” traits and over-compensating. Clearly I haven’t read the books and no need to worry about the spoiler as I am still intrigued. For what-ever reason it reminds me of Planet of the Apes but without the injections.

    1. I didn’t think about it, but now that you mention it I can see a little bit of planet of the apes in the idea.

  3. I haven’t read the books (despite the most amazing marketing job from my niece) but the topic is fascinating. Why do we always have to have the pendulum swing? Why are books never written about subtle shifts in humanity? Of course, if they were then they wouldn’t be about humans. No matter how hard we try, if we attempt to manufacture outcomes we will eventually go too far and chaos will follow.

    1. I think the subtle shifts might also be too subtle and slow to notice or to make good stories.

  4. This is definitely not my type of book – you know it reminded me of George’s Orwell’s book (can’t remember the name but it was a doozy) that tried to shape and change people. Stepford wifes, anyone?
    Good for authors that not all readers are like me, because I’m sure there are many who would love this. Thanks for sharing.
    Lenie

  5. I love dystopian literature, but YA not so much. In any case, I’ll look forward to seeing the movie version when it comes to DVD. I’ll stick with Orwell for now.

  6. Fellow fan of Dystopian fiction here and this topic definitely piqued my interest. I really enjoyed your writing but am not too interested in this series. Currently working my way through Ender’s Game atm.

  7. So, I haven’t read Divergent at all but I am most intrigued at the premise of them!

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  9. So I’ve read the first two books in the series and I’m just gearing up to read the third book. This was such an interesting commentary on how the book reflects our own broken world, our own broken identities. Thank you for pointing us back to the One we can still reflect in the pieces :).

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