On being Person Centred

“From my own point of view, the most important thing about modern spirituality, as opposed to traditional faith communities or what you might call ‘old spirituality’, is that it’s ‘person centred’. By that I mean looking to see what works for every individual.” William Bloom is one of Britain’s leading authors and educators in modern spirituality and a holistic approach to individual and community wellbeing. In this exclusive interview he discusses his ideas and work, and it means to be ‘person centred’.

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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