Enneagram & Music: Carlos Santana

Today’s text will be my penultimate for this series, and the last one in which I write about a musician’s probable Enneagram type and subtype.

Part of the reasons why I’ve decided to leave Carlos Santana for last is because I know that the way I see him is considerably different from that of many students of this system.

As the guitarist (and occasional singer) of the band Santana (of which he’s been the only constant member), Carlos has always been consistent in his alignment with ideals such as harmony, peace and love — which has a lot to do with the time (late ’60s) and place (San Francisco) that his band was formed.

Add to this his overall laid-back behavior, and it’s only natural that most Enneagram enthusiasts would type him as a Nine. As I said three weeks ago, Nines are people who give a lot of importance to the acceptance of differences in search of a common ground.

But, of course, if we want to go beyond a mere speculation about anyone’s type, we need to make a real effort to consider his/her deeper motivations, and how they often become blind spots.

it’s easy to go downhill

That’s why it’s so important to consider both someone’s predominant passion according to the Enneagram and his/her predominant instinct. As Urânio Paes says:

[…] the three instinctual drives and their consequent subtypes, in a way, work as a mask for passion, which is already a mask for virtue. So, instincts are a mask of the mask.

In other words, when faced with what are perceived to be the most pressing needs of life, a person will devote most of his/her energies towards a certain sphere. And this (mostly unconscious) movement can be categorized under one of the three instincts: Self-Preservation, Sexual or Social.

So, one way to understand the 27 subtypes is to say that each of them, in the process of developing one instinct more than the others, makes the journey from personality to essence an even more laborious and challenging task than what was first imagined.

I believe such difficulties become much clearer when we shine a light on the countertypes of each of the nine types. That is, those people who tend to mask their respective passions better — or, at least, more creatively — than others of their same type.

As you might have guessed by now, this is exactly how I see Carlos Santana in regards to the Enneagram. Because, instead of a type Nine, I believe he’s as a Social Eight.

everybody needs a helpin’ hand

In my text about Gene Simmons I said that Eights’ characteristic passion is lust. In the Enneagram, more than only sex, lust is about the gratification of desires. That is why type Eights tend to have unusual levels of intensity: they are always going for something, and they go for it with all their might.

But, as a Sexual Eight, Gene is not a countertype. It’s pretty obvious how he puts an excessive amount of energy towards what he wants, regardless of how others might feel about it. (This helps to explain why Don Richard Riso & Russ Hudson have used the term forcefulness to characterize the passion of this type).

With Carlos, however, this motivation isn’t nearly as obvious. It’s true that he’s also displayed many of the characteristic traits associated with Eights, such as a high level of confidence and even dominance. But many times these were somehow related to a greater good.

Indeed, Social Eights are extremely susceptible to what they perceive as social injustices of any kind. Consequently, as Bea Chestnut says in The Complete Enneagram, “They express lust and aggression in the service of life and other people”, much more than in a self-serving way.

Very few well-known musicians have done so much in terms of contributing (publicly, at least) for social causes, and this is most evident in his work with the Milagro Foundation, a charity he co-founded in 1998 with his then wife, Deborah, in benefit of “underrepresented and vulnerable children” all over the world.

And because all this concern with other people goes against the direction that their passion would lead them, Social Eights are, also according to Bea, “more loyal, more overtly friendly, and less aggressive”, and appear to be “more mellow and outgoing and less quick to anger than the other Eights.”

All of those things could be said about Nines too, and that’s why this is actually a common mistype for Social Eights. As if it wasn’t enough, in Carlos’ case things get even more convoluted, because he grew in an era when the so-called “soft skills” were starting to become much more valued by society.

Even himself has described his characteristic style of playing as “feminine”, due to his emphasis on melody and feeling. But rhythm, which he sees as the “masculine” part of music, is equally important to him (and a big part of what made Santana such a unique band from the beginning).

can’t you live by the way you preach?

His “feminine” side also helps to understand his deep interest in spirituality. For most of the seventies, he was a disciple of the Indian guru Sri Chinmoy, and, although he no longer follows any guru, he still considers his spiritual side to be an inseparable part of his life and work.

This “softness” was also reflected in the first incarnation of Santana. In spite of their chosen name, their ideals as a group were initially of a true collective, with no official leadership. However, some issues that came in the wake of their success showed Carlos that he’d better not be too soft with his bandmates.

The Woodstock-era lineup of Santana: Carlos, Chepito, Brown, Carabello, Rolie and Shrieve

In order to not let the band’s excesses — namely, sex and drugs — ruin the whole thing, Carlos felt the need to impose some discipline. And it was during this process that he became the de facto leader of Santana, a position which was officially consolidated when he obtained the legal rights to the band’s name in 1973.

These disputes left some wounds that would take a long time to heal, but even the more mundane aspects behind their music shouldn’t deviate us from the fact that Santana is one of the best representations of the power of rock music as a catalyst for both higher states of awareness and social change.

This may seem like an outdated and naive notion in these times when listeners are getting more and more used to dealing with music as if it was just another commodity. Besides, one might (understandably) question the sincerity of some of Carlos’ statements, since he’s made many concessions over the years in order to reach and maintain commercial success.

I’m actually on the side of those who criticize him for a certain excess of commercialism, because sometimes it seems that he’s too eager to find a way to have his cake and eat it too. However, I also like to see his beliefs about music and spirituality as an expression of his undeniable engagement with life.

Because, with all his interest in things of a higher plane, Carlos’ never seemed to have fallen into the trap of using it as a form of escapism.

As he says in the introduction of his autobiography (very aptly named The Universal Tone): “When people call me cosmic or crazy I take it as a compliment and say, ‘Well — behold. My craziness is working. How’s your sanity doing?’”

Well, who knows? Maybe it’s possible, after all, to have your cake and eat it too.