In the 1970s and ’80s Hameed Ali (pen name: A. H. Almaas) and Faisal Muqaddam, working with Karen Johnson, explored the psychology of the spiritual journey.
The “Theory of Holes” they developed provides a deep, highly specific map of the way psychology and spirituality relate. Later, Muqaddam left to teach on his own.
Elizabeth Bader worked with the teachers and/or founders of both schools over the course of approximately 24 years. Elizabeth is now working independently, with a special emphasis on understanding the relationship of the theory to trauma.
In 2014, Elizabeth was awarded a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner certificate by the Institute on trauma founded by Dr. Peter Levine.
The Theory of Holes
Roughly, the theory can be summarized as follows:
- A person’s essence — their fundamental being or true nature — rests unacknowledged underneath all the psychological content of the ego.
- A “hole” is the absence of a specific aspect of our essence. For example, we may have a hole in the area of love or joy or kindness.
- The hole is created during childhood by the development of ego structure over the initial, simple, precognitive, open awareness experienced by the infant during infancy and childhood.
- Usually we are unaware of the “hole” in its full sense. We are only aware of the defensive or compensatory psychological structures which block the hole from awareness.
- We can become conscious of the “hole” by increasing our awareness, that is by being present and engaging in certain forms of inquiry.
- At that point, if we can remain present with the hole, the part of us that is lost can be retrieved, or more precisely, it surfaces spontaneously from the depth of the hole.
See, e.g., A. H. Almaas (the pen name of Hameed Ali), Diamond Heart, Book One, Chapter 2, The Theory of Holes.
The Somatic Nature of “Holes”
A “hole” leaves its residue and signature within the body. This means that through inquiry and somatic awareness it may be possible to recover awareness of the hole through awareness of the body.
The Problem of Trauma
As both Ali (Almaas) and Muqaddam have acknowledged, their work is not designed to deal with trauma. Thus the theory does not easily account for traumatic residues or blockages.
Stated another way, many if not most people have places in the body and the mind more akin to crossed wires or lightening bolts than “holes.” A hole would be a welcome relief for some trauma sufferers. In fact, treating trauma as a “hole” may be highly counterproductive for some people.