07 April 2009

The Winnieagram: An Introduction

Some years ago I attended an enneagram workshop for reasons that now elude me. I’m afraid my experiences that weekend simply confirmed my suspicions that that approach to personality types simply did not cohere with my worldview.

One thing did emerge from that weekend: I wrote a little parody of the enneagram based on Winnie-the-Pooh. And, since I’m feeling a bit frivolous at the moment, I’ve decided to post it on my blog. Here’s the introduction:

The Winnieagram: An Introduction

Ursinian scholarship has advanced rapidly since the publication in 1979 of Frederick Crews’ seminal The Pooh Perplex. One has only to think of Benjamin Hoff’s The Tao of Pooh (1982) and The Te of Piglet (1992) to realise that Winnie-the-Pooh is no mere children’s classic but rather a text that encapsulates a wealth of human wisdom. That insight has been fruitfully applied to theology (in Christopher Idle’s influential sequence of papers ‘An Ongoing Theology of Winnie the Pooh’) and philosophy (notably in John Tyerman Williams’s Pooh and the Philosophers (1995)). However, as far as the author is aware, no one has previously noted Winnie the Pooh’s crucial role in the history of psychology. And yet there can be little doubt that Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner deserve to be treated as seminal psychology texts on a par with Freud’s Psychopathology of Everyday Life or Jung’s Symbols of Transformation. The present paper seeks to address in a modest way this unfortunate lacuna in Ursinian studies.

The task of giving a detailed exposition of the wealth of psychological insight to be gleaned from Winnie the Pooh and his friends is beyond the scope of a single paper. Instead I propose to outline a typology of human personality inspired by the Ursinian tradition. Known as the Winnieagram, the history of this typology is shrouded in mystery. However the clear dependence of other psychological typologies (such as the classical Hellenistic doctrine of temperaments and the Sufi-inspired Enneagram) upon the Winnieagram bears witness to its ancient origins.

One tradition traces the usual graphical representation of the Winnieagram (an eight-pointed star arranged around a ninth central point) to the layout of a Neolithic stone circle that once stood at the heart of what is now the Hundred Acre Wood. Sadly all traces of this circle have long since vanished and it is now quite impossible to confirm this suggestion.

An alternative history, favoured by the neo-theosophical school of Ursinian Studies, relies upon the hypothesis that Winnie the Pooh is, in fact, a Himalayan brown bear (Ursus arctos). Thus, it is argued, Winnie the Pooh’s psychological insights may traced to Tibet, that home of so much mystical wisdom.

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