The Holy Hope of Enneagram 3s & the Hanged Man

Enneagram 3s Holy Idea is is something called ‘Holy Hope’.Dr. David Daniels describes Holy Hope as “the original state of hope in which things work according to universal law (and are not dependent on anyone’s effort).”


What a pleasant state, right?! It’s sort of a nightmare scenario for type 3s, who’s “ultimate fear is not being able to do or accomplish anything” (Daniels).

Which brings us to the Hanged Man, who does not look as if he’s accomplishing much at all.

This card has many interpretations: liminal space, preparation for Death (which is card 13 where Hanged Man is 12), initiation, a change in perspective. The word “peace” is often used for this card, but surely hanging upside down like that can’t be comfortable for very long. And indeed, it is also described as voluntary discomfort for the sake of enlightenment. That suits what Helen Palmer has to say about 3’s “shift in awareness from deceit to honesty......3s are likely to experience a period of voluntary suffering, in which a protective habit that developed in childhood is given up in order to become psychologically free.”

So there’s some beautiful alignment there, but what about Holy Hope?

In ‘Meditations on the Tarot’, the anonymous author says that “authentic faith [is] the condition of the Hanged Man”. There are certainly nuanced differences between faith and hope, but they seem quite minor to me, and honestly, all of the Holy Ideas, at their core—and all the messages of the Tarot as a whole—come around in some fashion to Faith. And faith is implicit in the Hanged Man, for one does not string oneself up in such a manner without hope/trust—faith—that it is for some purpose.

In the letter on this arcanum, ‘Meditations’ speaks a lot about gravitational fields, the opposing pulls of Heaven and this world, and the Hanged Man as existing in the tension between the two. He refers to it as the “tension of solitude” of the spiritual desert fathers. Richard Rohr says of 3s that “to be healed, 3s must learn to be alone. [they] need a place of silence and seclusion where there is no public feedback, no applause, and no admiration.”

3s ‘virtue’ is authenticity, and aside from the prolific use of the word ‘authentic’ used in Meditations (relating the the Hanged Man’s faith), they also say this: “Who is the Hanged Man? [He is] the truly human man, and his lot is a truly human one.....That which is truly human in man and in humanity is the Hanged Man.”

This is an authenticity not just defined as ‘being yourself’, but on being an honest representative of the human condition itself, for we all exist in this tension; between the pull of heaven and earth, between confidence based on doing and faith based on being. It is a willingness to surrender to hope.