The Arica School, also known as the Arica Institute (which is its incorporated educational organization) or simply as Arica, is a human potential movement group founded in 1968 by Bolivian-born philosopher Oscar Ichazo (born 1931). The school is named after the city of Arica, Chile, where Ichazo once lived and where he led an intensive months-long training in 1970 and 1971 before settling in the United States where the Arica Institute (incorporated in 1971) has since been headquartered.
The Arica School can be considered, as Ramparts magazine put it in 1973, "A body of techniques for cosmic consciousness-raising and an ideology to relate to the world in an awakened way."
The Arica School's origins began in 1956 when groups of people formed in major cities in South America to study the theory and method that Ichazo was proposing. For fourteen years these different groups studied his teachings. In 1968 Ichazo presented lectures on his theories of Protoanalysis and the ego-fixations at the Institute of Applied Psychology in Santiago, Chile.
Ichazo's theories are based upon such traditional metaphysical questions such as: "What is humankind?"; "What is the supreme good of humanity?"; and "What is the truth that gives meaning and value to human life?"
Ichazo refined the ancient concept that a human soul has components by approaching the issue through three instinctual questions that he considered basic to human existence: "How am I?", "Who am I with?", "What am I doing?" Ichazo labeled these conservation, relations, and syntony (later modified to adaptation). Recognizing interactions among the three, he developed a 3 x 3 = 9 component system, which he correlated with several schemas that have long existed in diverse fields: spectrum of light, chakras, physiological systems, the enneagram, etc.
For example, each component of the psyche was assigned a corresponding color, which was reinforced through a wide variety of self-development exercises. The Hypergnostic meditation utilized the ancient notion of vertically arranged chakras, expanding the seven chakra system widely used in Hindu meditation into nine by adding the sacrum and the nape of the neck. Modern biology was incorporated into the theory by associating the hypergnostic rings (chakras) with anatomy rather than energy centers.
For self-observation of habitual patterns, Ichazo employed the enneagram, among other tools. Transformative practices sometimes involved linking a specific mudra and / or bija with each of the nine points of the enneagram. During the first three decades or so, most aspects of his theory that were mapped onto the enneagram were circular mappings (e.g., closing of the spectrum into a circular Rainbow Eye) that involved little or no utilization of the interconnecting lines that constitute the enneagram's form. In other words, most of the maps were enneagons rather than enneagrams (refer to enneagram figure for drawings that show the difference).
Like some other systems of self-actualization, Arica works with the (ultimately illusory) separation of essence and ego. An important aspect of this work is to observe one's habits and reactions in accordance with a typology of nine. However, Ichazo referred to the characterizations as "fixations" rather than "personality types" and he repeatedly emphasized that every human being contains all nine types ("we have to awaken all the nine positions"). The fixation was simply a key to self-discovery, not a form of identity like one's sun sign in astrology.
The inherent difficulty of working with the ego and essence distinction while maintaining an ultimate philosophical stance of nondualism can be appreciated by mystics of any path. Such "inner work" entails the risk of inflating one's ego with notions such as "I am a special person because I have higher knowledge" or "I am aware of my ego, but you are not aware of yours". To avoid problems that could arise from this delicate type of work, Ichazo emphasized group exercises and honest interpersonal encounters ("ego reduction"). He also insisted on secrecy, specifically not propagating the theory without his permission. With this essential context in mind a person is prepared to understand Ichazo's position in the enneagram controversy.
Ichazo is considered by many to be the father of the Enneagram of Personality (usually just called the Enneagram) movement which uses an enneagram figure. The United States Court of Appeals ruled that Ichazo is the original author of the application of the enneagram figure to a theory of ego fixations (which are the precursor to personality disorders). However, this ruling denied copyright injunction under the "fair use" doctrine of copyright law. Because the enneagram symbol is a discovery (not an invention), the legal issue was not use of the symbol but rather the copyrightability of specific "enneagrams", meaning symbol plus descriptive words (or other information) associated with each point. Ichazo had earlier described the enneagrams as a set of immutable laws but he had also said that he "developed" the enneagrams.
Ichazo has applied the enneagram figure in connection with his theory of mechanical ego mechanisms which grow out of psychological traumas suffered at an early age in specific aspects of the human psyche. In his basic theory, these aspects of the human psyche include the sense of well-being (conservation instinct); the sense of relations with others (relation instinct); and the sense of adapting to our environment (adaptation instinct). Ichazo's goal with regard to the study of the enneagram is to facilitate the recognition of repetitive, mechanistic thinking and behavior in a person's psychological process and to eliminate the suffering rooted in the attachment to, and identification with, these mechanisms (which, Ichazo teaches, attempt to protect us from suffering but actually tend to perpetuate it).
The popular use of the Enneagram of Personality (as contrasted with the use of enneagrams within the Arica School) began principally with Claudio Naranjo who had studied with Ichazo in Chile. Ichazo considers Naranjo's understanding of the Enneagram to be limited and incomplete. Naranjo's major contribution to the Enneagram of Personality was his addition of defense mechanisms to the model developed by Ichazo: "His contribution to the Enneagram successfully joined the insight and methods of a mystical path of transformation with the intellectual power of a Western psychological model."
It has been suggested that Ichazo "either came under the influence of the school that taught G.I. Gurdjieff or, at least, studied under students of Gurdjieff." Ichazo, however, has denied any connection between his and Gurdjieff's teachings. Some writers in the Enneagram of Personality field have claimed that the enneagram figure is a Sufi symbol. Although the symbolism of the number 9 is ancient, there does not appear to be any evidence for the enneagram figure before Gurdjieff in Sufism or elsewhere.
As presented in later years (post-2000), a large part of Arica is the study of classical philosophy as compared to "modern" philosophy. This is a departure from the early 1990s when Ichazo was intent on correlating Arica with Tantric Buddhism. In recent years, Ichazo has pointedly asserted that his understanding of the Enneagram originated with reading classical philosophy and Plotinus' Enneads and not as any consequence of any writing or work of Gurdjieff. In Interviews With Oscar Ichazo he states that he encountered the enneagram figure before he encountered the works of Gurdjieff, implying that it was before he joined (circa 1950) a group of mystics in Buenos Aires that included some people who had participated in the Fourth Way work presented by Gurdjieff.
The tools that the Arica School teaches are called the “Protoanalytical Theory, System and Method” or "Protoanalysis". Before 1980, the term "protoanalysis" was misunderstood to be narrower in scope, used specifically as the name for Ichazo's theory of types, from which the Enneagram of Personality was derived.
Protoanalysis is proposed by Ichazo to be a comprehensive analysis of the complete human being, from the grossest aspects of the human process (e.g., enneagramatic and mentational analyses of human anatomy and physiology), progressing systematically to the higher states of consciousness where enlightenment can be attained (e.g., the direct and ceaseless experience of non-dual union with the Divine).
The Arica School presents a detailed map of the human psyche that aims to serve as a guide for discovering the basis of one's ego process, enabling individuals to transcend that process into a higher state of consciousness that is found in and available to every person. This state of being is seen as the recognition of one's true essential self, experienced as an internal state of great happiness, light, and liberation.