Enneagram & Music: George Harrison

As the most popular music act of the 20th century, the Beatles have been the subject of countless studies and analyses coming from a wide variety of fields. And the Enneagram, of course, is no exception to that, more specifically when it’s used as a typology system (as it most often is).

Different perspectives about each of the “Fab Four” display a general consensus about Paul’s and Ringo’s types: Three and Nine, respectively. Verdicts about John are always the most conflictive, as he’s usually typed as a Five, but I’ve seen compelling cases for typing him as a Six (and also as a Four).

Assessments on George lie somewhere in between those two extremes. He’s usually depicted as a type One, but this has been the matter of some dispute too, which (hopefully) could be attenuated with a deeper dive into the subtypes.

But, before we go into that, let’s take a step back and get acquainted not only with what type One represents, but also how it is viewed by most people who study the Enneagram (and how much those perceptions might get in the way of a better understanding of what this type is really about).

it’s you that decides which way you will turn

Of all nine types, Ones tend to be the most concerned about what is correct, which helps to explain why they’re considered “the Perfectionists”, or “the Reformers”. They learned very early on to become their own authority, because those that were supposed to be authorities in their lives didn’t seem trustful enough.

That’s why they tend to live their lives with lots of “shoulds” in their heads, which only ends up reinforcing their characteristic passion: anger. In one way or another, all Ones are considered idealists, because all of them have a constant awareness about the mismatch between their ideals and reality.

However, most Ones actually don’t allow themselves to express their anger directly, and this led two of the most prominent Enneagram authors, Don Richard Riso & Russ Hudson, to say that this type’s typical passion would be better described as resentment.

If we consider the teachings of Claudio Naranjo, this would make a lot of sense when analyzing the Self-Preservation One (who tends be more of a perfectionist, mostly concerned with his/her own faults) and the Social One (who feels already “perfect”, in a sense, by adhering to a strict set of personal rules).

However, this would definitely not be the case for the Sexual One, which is exactly where I think we can find George Harrison in light of this system. In the words of Bea Chestnut in her amazing book The Complete Enneagram:

This is the only One subtype that is explicitly angry and so is the countertype of the three One personalities. The Sexual One is impatient, can be invasive, goes for what he or she wants, and has a sense of entitlement.

When looking at the names commonly given to Ones, Bea also observes that this subtype is the one who fits the most with the idea of being a “Reformer”.

when things that seemed so very plain become an awful pain

The greatest display of George’s reformism was in his role in throwing (with a little help from his friends) what is considered the first rock concert in service of a charitable cause: the Concert for Bangladesh, which aimed to help the refugees of that country. (This was in 1971, way before the Live Aid, in 1985).

George during his performance at the Concert for Bangladesh

Besides, let’s not forget that he became a Hindu in the late sixties and remained one until his death in 2001, and those three decades in between would see the rise of many songs in which he dealt with his beliefs explicitly. (Drawing a lot of criticism for what was seen as a very preachy attitude.)

Of course, he could be quite a perfectionist too. In fact, I think this had a decisive influence in the development of his style as a guitarist, which can be characterized as being precise and clean (sometimes even to a fault), very far from the flashiness of many of his contemporaries.

This meticulousness was a remarkable aspect of the making of his classic 1970 album All Things Must Pass. Talking about it to the Martin Scorsese’s documentary Living in the Material World, producer Phil Spector said: “‘Perfectionist’ is not the word. Anyone can be a perfectionist. He was beyond that.”

I’d have you any time

Speaking about that documentary, it also presents over and over again the most compelling case for typing George as a Sexual One: a certain duality in his personality, which is often characterized by a yearning for all things of a higher plane, but an equally high attraction to earthly pleasures.

This is best represented by the holy trinity of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll — and, among these, sex seemed to have played a bigger role in his life. Paul McCartney (who, despite their many differences, certainly knew him better than most) probably said it best: “He liked the things that men liked. He was red-blooded”.

This can also be seen in the following part from Bea’s analysis of this subtype:

In Western culture […], the sinfulness of sex is so pervasive that it can be hard sometimes not to feel improper or naughty if we allow ourselves to freely express our sexual desires. But the Sexual One has a different, more liberated, attitude with regard to sexual desire. There’s a kind of “go for it” mentality that can then necessitate the finding of good reasons to support the rightness of whatever the Sexual One wants to do.

It may be argued that one of the things that drew George to Hinduism was what might have appeared to him as a more flexible attitude towards sex in comparison to Christianity. At the very least, there is no doubt that he found in Hinduism all the “good reasons” he needed to justify his appetites.

For instance, one of the Hindu gods, Krishna, is often depicted as being surrounded by maidens. Apparently, George saw this as a good reason to say to his first wife, Pattie Boyd (who would leave him and marry his friend Eric Clapton) that “he too needed concubines.”

Apart from that, a more general aspect of George’s duality that can be observed in Scorsese’s documentary was how he used to deal with those who were closer to him. A mixing of different accounts gives us a portrait of someone who could be kind and generous at times, but also bad-tempered and insensitive at others.

there’s no easy way out at all

Anyway, as I said on previous texts for this series, I’m certainly not here to judge anyone else. The most fascinating characters tend to have some very distinct paradoxes about them.

In George’s case, being rich and famous at an early age allowed him to recognize an emptiness in himself, sensing that all the things of the material world couldn’t be all that they’re cracked up to be:

I remember thinking I just want more. This isn’t it. Fame is not the goal. Money is not the goal. To be able to know how to get peace of mind, how to be happy, is something you don’t just stumble across. You’ve got to search for it.

As we can see, his dissatisfaction led him to ask himself a very important question: “Is that all?”. That’s also a very courageous question, and for him the answer was a clear and definite “No”.

But perhaps he never dared to ask himself another, equally important question: “Is it enough?”. To which his answer would probably also be “No”.

Or, maybe, “Not yet”.