Super-charged Inner Work

The Theory of Holes Can Blow Your Mind

The Theory of Holes is a piece of understanding in the Diamond Approach that dramatically changes one’s orientation to spiritual and psychological work. It can also kick it into warp-speed.

Working with the theory of holes is like looking through a telescope that looks through a microscope that functions in a particle accelerator. What? Let’s explain what that means:

The theory of holes starts with the macro view (the telescope), what’s happening right now – exploring tensions and contractions that have been compensating for the historical loss of our essence and shielding that loss from consciousness.

As the exploration deepens, we get more into the micro view (the microscope) – the particulars and the subtleties.

This exploration can progress to the point where we leave the world of psychological mechanics and enter the spiritual, quantum world (the particle accelerator). This is where things can get really interesting, as essential qualities starts to reemerge.

psychological holes

When a quality of Essence is blocked from a person’s experience, what is left in place of that quality is a sense of emptiness, a deficiency, a hole, as we saw in our discussion of the Theory of Holes. You have seen in your work here how you actually experience that emptiness as a hole in your body where a quality of Essence is cut off. This creates the sense that something is lacking and, therefore, something is wrong. When we feel a deficiency, we try to fill the hole. Since Essence has been cut off in that place, we cannot fill the hole with Essence, so we try to fill it with similar, false qualities, or we try to fill it from the outside.
– A. H. Almaas, Diamond Heart Book One, ch. 3

In the theory of holes in the Diamond Approach, you first become aware of how you try to fill the lack of an essential aspect, then you see a hole, an emptiness, where the aspect is missing. If you explore this, the essential aspect that was blocked will begin to arise. –
A. H. Almaas, Diamond Heart Book Three, ch. 5

theory of psychological holes

No One is Born with Holes

These holes in our psyche are created during our early psychological development process. They manifest in our psyche in feelings of deficiency, such as:

  • I’m not smart enough
  • I’m unlovable
  • No one cares for me
  • I don’t deserve…
  • I lack value
  • I can’t…, I don’t have what it takes

One more thing about the theory of holes. As I said, the holes get produced when you’re a child. When you’re a baby, you have no holes; you are complete when you are born. As you grow up, because of your interactions with your environment and certain difficulties you encounter, you get cut off from certain parts of yourself. Every time you get cut off from a part of you, a hole manifests. The holes then become full with the memory of the loss and the issues around the loss. After a while, you fill in the holes. What you fill the holes with are false feelings, ideas, beliefs about yourself, and strategies for dealing with your environment. These fillers are collectively called the personality, or what we call the false pearl.
-A. H. Almaas, Diamond Heart Book One, ch. 2

enneagram holy ideas

Tools of the Trade

The theory of holes is one understanding used in the Diamond Approach to help facilitate liberation from our past conditioning. Two other ‘tools of the trade’ include the Enneagram and our main practice, Diamond Inquiry™.

We use the Enneagram as a tool and a map at specific junctures in our work of spiritual unfoldment. Initially, we use it as a psychological map that aids self-observation and study. Students also work with our theory of holes (see Essence, Almaas, 1986), which describes the loss of Essence and the consequent development of the personality. Then the work of uncovering the essential aspects proceeds. The theories of depth psychology on object relations, narcissism, and the like, constitute a major portion of the tools used to access the various essential dimensions. The Enneagram is then used at particular points as a map of certain levels of reality, in order to facilitate spiritual transformation. For example, work on the Passions and Virtues helps students in the process of purification of the soul. The Enneagram of Holy Ideas is most useful at the juncture between personal and cosmic realization of Being, as previously mentioned.
– A. H. Almaas, Facets of Unity, ch. 3

The Theory of Holes is simple and elegant, but it doesn’t work in practice without an understanding of Essence. It can’t be used effectively in most psychological work venues, due to a lack of understanding about the spiritual nature of the self.

Without entering the abyss of the deficiency, the ego-self will continue its activity of avoidance or compensation. Thus, the holes and their influence will remain.

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9 thoughts on “Super-charged Inner Work”

  1. Michael Conley

    Fascinating. I am a Diamond Approach student, doing the work for a year in the Boston 4 group. I would like to study this, time permitting.

  2. Else Lehn-Jensen

    Every time I hear or read about the theories of holes, some new understanding arises and I realise that when looking and inquiring into the macro perspective here and now I am looking sensing listening at my Force of Life in all its aspects. Everything is there….. just waiting for awareness…..
    Thank you with love

  3. That is so not true.
    Perhaps this assertion is true for the time of conception.
    “No one is born with holes.” Maybe.
    Our time in the womb is no more perfect than our early childhood. Already in pregnancy there are deficiency syndromes (e.g. due to insufficient oxygen concentration in the blood of smoking mothers), poisoning syndromes (due to alcohol or medication) and near-death experiences (e.g. due to placental haemorrhage after falls or accidents, due to the premature abortion of a twin sibling, etc.).
    The ideal prenatal world postulated here does not exist.
    Why doesn’t the Ridhwan school take the research of the last 50 years seriously, if it is to years seriously if it claims to be up to date?

    1. You raise a good point, but I don’t think this post, nor Almaas’ writings on the Theory of Holes postulates an “ideal prenatal world.” Of course, there are in utero experiences that impact development and shape the psyche.

      Should we throw out the last 50 years of research and theory? I don’t recall ever reading that the Diamond Approach claims to be up-to-date on all developments and evolution in the sciences.

      As I see it, the theory of holes is not trying to speak to or encapsulate human development from conception, but is showing us a way or means, out toward the “skin of the onion,” to peel back to essence.

    2. I will offer my understanding of the theory of holes in response to Dirk’s comment, and I will very much welcome any clarification/correction from DA teachers if I am not understanding it correctly.
      It is definitely true that even while in utero we are affected by many different factors, such as negative emotions and experiences of the mother or substance abuse.
      However, the consciousness of the fetus has not expanded to reach awareness of the self and distinguish it from the other, and everything in him/her functions in an automatic way, in the sense that in order to survive a fetus doesn’t have to “do” absolutely anything. He/she is connected to the mother’s body and gets nourished by it in an automatic way. Once the newborn baby is physically separated from the mother’s body things start to change: the baby has to act and behave in an independent way, launch signals to be understood in order to get the mother or carer to take care of him/her, and this is when the holes can start to form. Holes cannot form without some form of self-awareness, even a very primitive and rough form such is the one starting to emerge in the developing baby. Therefore, yes, the baby will be impacted at the level of the physical brain and body when she/he is a fetus in utero, but it is a different kind of impact. The impact of the processes that form holes in the baby once separated has to do with impairing the unveiling of the connection with his/her essence or qualities of essence, in a way that this connection is prevented from coming out in the open consciousness, is blocked from becoming integrated in the forming self-awareness of the growing baby. So, the traumas we experience in the womb act on a slightly different level, a more physical and biochemical level, whereas the holes are directly linked with a lack of awareness of our essence/essential qualities, I would say that they are holes in our consciousness, which are corresponded by the numbing of the parts of the body that are in charge of feeling the emotions and sensations related to the particular quality that we have severed from our self-awareness. In the fetus, the self-awareness has still not started to develop so no holes of this kind can be formed, but only dysfunctions of biochemical processes can occur. Of course, eventually these dysfunctions will become tightly intertwined with our capacity to self-develop spiritually and psychologically, but as I see it they are not the immediate cause of the holes themselves as defined by this theory.
      Please do correct me if I misunderstood!
      With love and appreciation🙏

      1. Dear Barbara,
        thank you for your inspiring thoughts and explanations. You mean holes only arise when we are aware of ourselves and can distinguish ourselves from others?
        But neither can a 6-month-old infant! So can he not have a hole experience either?

        I am sure we can experience a failure of the holding environment already in the womb this experience is only gradually different from that of an infant, why should its traces be so different? Because a birth happened in between?

        The development of self-awareness and differentiation from others is a gradual process that may begin before birth but is not complete until three or four years of age. Only then can children experience themselves as separate in the way we know it.
        See e.g.

        Please do correct me if misunderstood!

  4. Thanks, Dirk. I agree. Almaas discusses elsewhere the lack of separation between infant and mother–e.g., when the infant reacts to the mother’s anxiety by fussing and the mother soothes the baby by nursing (actually, the baby soothes her). Even in utero, the infant is affected by the mother’s emotional state since mother and infant are not separate.

    The Diamond Approach integrates the classical Platonic theory of ideal forms with mid-20th c. modern psychology. I agree that it’s not informed by 21st c. research or perspectives on infant development and other matters.

    1. Dear Bridget,
      thank you for your comment. It is so unfortunate that the Diamond Approach takes so little note of the research on prenatal and early childhood development over the last 40 years.
      It wouldn’t be a problem if psychoanalytic theory wasn’t so prominent in teaching in many places. But it is – and so we are fed long outdated theoretical concepts (such as Margret Mahler) in retreats that make us seem like dinosaurs in current discourse with friends.

      My way of dealing with this is to take the focus off it so as not to cut myself off from the vastness and wisdom that can be found behind it all.

  5. Thanks, Barbara. What you’ve said makes sense to me as a mother and daughter. Although i can’t remember early infancy, i imagine there’s a correspondence between the infant and mother’s effortless mutual connection during pregnancy and the mutually fretful, effortful, anxious experiences of infancy and new motherhood,

    During pregnancy, my body met all the needs of the fetus with no thought or effort (other than eating right, not drinking alcohol, and so on). So different from the experience after delivery! And the difficult process of separation never seems to end. As Erin Belieu writes in her wonderful poem, “Against Writing About Children:”

    “Each child turns

    into a problematic ocean, a mirrored
    body growing denser and more
    difficult to navigate until

    sunlight merely bounces
    off the surface.”

    Rather than feel the excruciating pain of separation, loss, lack, and grief, we harden, contract, become a “mirrored body.”

    What I read into Dirk’s message was that there is no perfection, no ideal form, pre-natal or otherwise. I agree. I am persuaded of the wisdom of the Buddha: life is suffering. There is an end to suffering only in surrender to it. “Samsara is nirvana.”

    There is no real contradiction here between Almaas’ teaching, but to my mind, there is a difference.

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