• Jamie Bass

Don't Forget About the Holons!

If you’re on this blog, you already believe that place can be a powerful tool for shaping change. I practice a contemporary, Western form of feng shui that focuses on remedies based on the ways in which a place is filtered through a person’s perception (instead of applying blanket cures in prescribed ways). The logic behind this is that although certain ideas concerning space apply to almost all humans, we’re actually more impacted when the feng shui remedies are tailored to our specific cultures, time periods, personal histories, and generations. In practicing with this philosophy, any underlying feng shui principles that are used are expressed individually within the context of that person’s culture and experience so that they’re relevant and can make a difference. If an individual is having trouble meeting their goals, we look at the full spectrum of that person’s experience to try and understand why that may be.


One of the tools that we use to help us determine what may be preventing or blocking an individual from reaching their goals is a holon. A holon is something that is simultaneously a whole in and of itself and also part of a larger whole. It can be thought of as systems nested within each other. An example of a holon would be language: sounds make up letters, letters make up words, words make up sentences, sentences make up paragraphs, and paragraphs make up books. While it is easy to focus solely on the most complex form (books), without the base levels (sounds and letters), none of the other levels can exist. A holon implies that unless the fundamentals are in place, the full structure cannot develop and thrive. In feng shui, we use several different types of holons to evaluate where a breakdown in that holon’s structure might be preventing someone from getting what they want.

We typically use three main holons in feng shui to evaluate and diagnose a situation: the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Holon, the Human Development Holon, and the Feng Shui Holon. Let’s start with the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Holon and discuss how to apply it in feng shui.

The Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Holon

In the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Holon, you can see that self-actualization (or the attainment of one’s goals) builds on self-esteem (or self-transcendence), which builds on a sense of belonging (or psychological needs), which builds on a sense of safety (or a sense of well-being), which builds on physiological considerations (or biology). The point being that if any one of these elements is out of sync with or not supportive of a person’s stated goal, that person’s needs are not being met, and it becomes very challenging for them to achieve what they want. A crucial part of feng shui, then, is identifying which particular element or elements of the holon are missing in the attainment of that goal and applying the appropriate remedies to reinforce those areas.

So how would we apply this concept to a real world example? Imagine that someone wants to begin a career as a social worker but is having a difficult time getting started. Remember that all of these parts need to be in alignment with the goal, so our task is to find where the breakdown is occurring. Here’s what we might look for:

Physiological Considerations (or Biology): Does this person have the mental and emotional capability and capacity to nurture this sort of intellectual pursuit? Are there any impediments to them doing well in this chosen field of study? Is there an area within the home that is set aside for and supportive of intellectual growth and study?

Sense of Safety (or Sense of Well-Being): Are there any extenuating circumstances that might interfere with this person completing their degree, such as having to work two jobs to pay for school? How is this person’s current emotional and mental state and does that lend itself towards a rigorous course of study? Is there an area in their home that can nurture and revive them if they become overwhelmed or exhausted?

Sense of Belonging (or Psychological Needs): Does this person have other focuses that might divert their attention? Does the home reflect a positive and supportive mindset, or does it feel isolating or cold?

Self-Esteem (or Self-Transcendence): Does this person believe that they can achieve their goals? Are there reasons why this person may not want to succeed? Are there representations of past achievements in the space? Is this person proud of who they are and what they’ve accomplished and is that obvious?

Self-Actualization (or the Attainment of One’s Goals): Does this goal have the intrinsic requirements to satisfy them? Are there clues in the space that indicate that this person is well-suited and ready for this type of career?

Holons are great tools in feng shui because they help us see what could be blocking us from achieving the things that we want. And when we can find and acknowledge which elements for success may be missing, we can use feng shui to adjust our places, filling the gaps and creating welcome change in our lives.