Richard Bright: Can we begin with you saying something about your background?
William Bloom: I was brought up in London. My father was a psychiatrist, my mother was a New York journalist. I went straight into work without any A levels, into London publishing. I had my first novel published when I was 21 years old and by the time I was 25 I was the youngest Commissioning Editor in book publishing. I had 3 novels, 4 thrillers and a novella published and then decided that it was all meaningless and I took myself off to a spiritual retreat. The background of me being in publishing and writing at that time was that it was in the middle of the ‘psychedelics’ period, particularly in London, and I was in the middle of all of that and influenced by it. I was 25 and I thought that my career and life were not meaningful and went to a spiritual retreat and came back on a completely new ‘track’.
RB: Where was this spiritual retreat?
WB: It was on my own in the High Atlas Mountains of Southern Morocco. I was ‘off grid’ for two years, meditating. It sounds glamorous, but it wasn’t. I was very lucky to have found an old hunting lodge, and I lived in that. Then I came back to central London, which was a bit of a culture shock! I then did my first degree at the London School of Economics and went on to do a doctorate in political psychology. The doctorate was published by Cambridge University Press. It was about personal identity, national identity and international relationships, it was to do with how personal psycho-dynamics work out on an international stage. Also, in my own personal history I had done 3 years of psychoanalysis myself, so I was very interested in psychology and psychotherapy.
I was starting to teach at the LSE and realised that the academic world was not for me, because of the level of intellectual aggression. That was natural for me but I didn’t feel was good for my own personal development. It was not good for me to be in an environment where I could just do rapier duelling with other intellects, so I went to work at Southey College. I was a special needs tutor for 9 years, working with teenagers, adults and refugees. I ran a drop-in centre. While that was going on I started the Alternatives Programme at St James’s, London. At the same time I was being asked to run some courses at Findhorn in Scotland. I had never planned to be a teacher but I ended up becoming an educator, and it suited me, because I liked the mixture of entertainment, information and helping, all at the same time. It was like a cabaret act while being of service!
So now I’ll fast forward. I currently run a charity, called the Spiritual Companions Trust. We run and develop courses in a holistic approach to personal and spiritual practice, development and pastoral care. For example, for the last two years we did a whole series a training for a hospice group, for their staff. Currently we’re putting through a new accredited course, similar to A level or B tech courses, with The College of Teachers, which is an accredited body in the Institute of Education, London University. The course is called Health, Wellbeing and Spirituality.
RB: Your life and work is devoted to bringing into focus the nature of Holism and Spirituality – or more specifically, what you call ‘Modern Spirituality. First of all, how would you define Holism and, secondly, what is the difference between ‘traditional, historic’ spirituality and Modern Spirituality?
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