Letter to BBC Radio



 l to r: William Bloom, Eileen Caddy, Kate Thomas, Findhorn 
  Foundation

l to r: William Bloom, Eileen Caddy, Kate Thomas, Findhorn Foundation

Introduction

This letter to media in 2006 was a critical reaction to a Radio 4 chat programme which celebrated "new spirituality." The contents of that letter provided the counter in a description of events attaching to one of the radio speakers, namely the commercial therapist William Bloom. The basic issue here is the Findhorn Foundation (FF), of which Bloom had long been a figurehead, being their most well known therapist. I lived near the Foundation during the 1990s (without becoming a member), both in Findhorn village and Forres. My mother (Kate Thomas) was stigmatised by that organisation for being in criticism of extremist therapies, chiefly Holotropic Breathwork, the trademark therapy of Stanislav Grof which had been imposed upon the Foundation community by the reckless director Craig Gibsone. The Letter to BBC Radio alights upon significant details not found in Foundation promotional literature, and makes a case against the milieu concerned.

The headings have been inserted for internet assimilation. A new supplement dated Feb. 2007 gives information which further accentuates the flaws discernible in commercial "new spirituality." A profile of two Bloom workshops is here supplied from a firsthand report.

CONTENTS  KEY

1.        William  Bloom  and  Alternatives

2.        Entrepreneurs  Pump  Up  the  Volume

3.        Holotropic  Breathwork  Spreads  to  Piccadilly

4.        Casualties  in  Holotropic  Breathwork

5.        The  Bloom  Workshop  Rave

6.        Bloombiz  and  the  Money  Game

7.        Promotion  of  Margot  Anand  Eroticism

8.        New  Spirituality  is  a  Deception

9.        Pump  Down  the  Volume

10.      Contemporary  Workshops  a  Profiteering  Distraction

11.      Pseudo-Holistic  Cosmetic

12.     The  Art  of  Living  in  Discord

13.      Discrepancies  Need  to  be  Assimilated

14.     Television  and  Radio  Complexities

15.      Pervasive  Confusions  and  New  Age  Ads

           Supplement

 

Letter to BBC Radio on the Findhorn Foundation

5th January, 2006

Dear Sir,

I have been asked to contact you on the subject of William Bloom, as a consequence of BBC correspondence with John P. Greenaway. Your recent inclusion of Bloom in a BBC Radio 4 discussion of 28/08/05 about the "new spirituality" has aroused strong questioning. I do not promote a Christian standpoint in these matters, my angle being geared to philosophy and related channels. Greenaway is certainly justified in questioning the presumed authority of Bloom, and his religious standpoint is surely relevant to St. James’ Church, Piccadilly. That is the venue where Bloom promoted the new age workshop enterprise known as Alternatives.

This letter commemorates events and angles in danger of oblivion. I have not researched Bloom’s estimation of "the master DK" which Greenaway refers to. The dedication in question does sound a little bizarre, especially as Bloom uses a Ph.D. credential. Even if that reference only represents standard Lucis Trust beliefs, you would have a difficult time persuading critics that an incorporeal Tibetan (Djwal Khul) invented by Alice Bailey "channelling" is a compelling argument to accept new age themes.

My own objections to Bloom are secondary to the misbehaviour of the Findhorn Foundation (abbreviation FF), an organisation with which he is closely associated. The FF has awarded him a megastar profile in their workshop brochures, and one may probe this status in the due light of known details.

1.  William  Bloom  and  Alternatives

During the late 1960s, William Bloom (b. 1948) was a hippy advocate of flower power, subscribing to the drugs and sex counterculture which was depicted in his novel published in 1971. Under such influences he contracted the idea of journeying to Marrakesh and undertaking a six month retreat fixated upon a late medieval magical manual. The ritual denoted was strongly associated with Aleister Crowley (d. 1947), one of the emerging new age icons. At least two versions of Crowleyan memoirs discussing the Abra Melin ritual were published by the early 1970s. Crowley fascinated hippies. Bloom’s magical retreat occurred in 1972. However, Bloom does not enthuse about Crowley in his books and tends to identify himself with Alice Bailey, stating that he acquired usage of the phrase "new age" from her corpus. (S. J. Sutcliffe, Children of the New Age, London 2003, pp. 113–14).

The account by Bloom of his magical retreat was published (see below) along with a string of his other books during the 90s, when he had become a commercial figure of the post-hippy new age. In 1989 he had taken over an existing "liberal" programme at St. James’ Church which had attracted speakers like Ram Dass. Bloom renamed this programme Alternatives, and added substantial new age flourishes. He charged higher prices, seeking to justify this with much sloganism. (J. P. Greenaway, In the Shadow of the New Age, London 2003, pp. 158–9.) His entrepreneurial career amounted to new age workshops, in which many things are sold on doubtful authority.

2.   Entrepreneurs  Pump  Up  the  Volume

In 1990 appeared the Bloom handbook entitled Pump Up the Volume: A manual for putting on new age lectures and workshops. The title derived from a raucous item of pop music. The contents clearly strained to justify the commerce involved. The author gained an affluent clientele prepared to credit the hype employed. The increasing volume was welcomed ecstatically by the FF, who were thinking very much on the same lines. A two-way influence is apparent. The volume became deafening during the 90s, eclipsing all considerations of due research.

A buzz phrase at the FF was planetary transformation. By and large, transformation was a glib word emanating from the Esalen Institute in California, the major commercial centre for "workshop" sensations since the 60s. The FF motto also decodes to Pump Up the Volume. Commencing with the Australian director Craig Gibsone, the FF management of the 90s embarked upon a new phase of entrepreneurial activity featuring donations, privatisation of communal assets, a new salary structure for officials, new business projects, and innumerable workshops. The FF was transformed into ecobiz from a much more simple economy prevalent during the 80s (in which salary was very low), though even then attended by workshop commerce and many simplistic concepts acquired from diverse sources. Bloom’s pump-up meshed to advantage with the increases and surfeits achieved by the FF. He was much in demand as a celebrity performance at the FF.

3.    Holotropic  Breathwork  Spreads  to  Piccadilly

When the controversy over Stanislav Grof’s Holotropic Breathwork (HB) erupted within the FF in 1989–90, Gibsone was director and Bloom was not involved. Grof’s therapy (created at Esalen) was considered dangerous by the pathology department of Edinburgh University, and in 1993 the Scottish Charities Office (SCO) recommended an indefinite suspension of the high risk activity [a suspension underlined by the firm response of the SCO to a renewed appeal for HB by the FF in 1995]. Yet in early 1995, Bloom impudently promoted HB in London, regarding it as a viable therapy, a fact which put him on the wrong side of medical opinion. Regius Professor Anthony Busuttil has since confirmed his critical assessment of HB (Shepherd, Pointed Observations, Dorchester 2005, pp. 198–9). Counterculture is still evasive of the warnings, and requires due monitoring.

FF breathwork practitioners aimed at bypassing the SCO prohibition by spreading Grof therapy in the south of England. They tried in Cumbria and succeeded in Dorset. Bloom opened the London branch. The new age is not distinguished by ethical considerations. The psychedelic delusions of Grof had been unwisely sanctioned by SUNY Press, as American scientists have lamented (ibid., pp. 6–24). Gibsone regarded SUNY auspices as proof of Grof’s validity. Despite the SCO ruling (or recommendation), private sessions of HB flourished in FF precincts, evidencing a strong disregard for officialdom (S. J. Castro, Hypocrisy and Dissent within the Findhorn Foundation, Forres 1996, pp. 96ff).

Bloom relied upon two FF practitioners and his own presumed knowledge of hyperventilation. Church of England officials backed away from his new agenda, and HB was conducted outside church premises. Bloom persisted in giving HB a mystical status, despite all warnings. Grof was right, Gibsone was right, and so the Abra Melin ritualist was right. That was the pump up logic involved. Bloom completely disregarded the known protests of dissidents within the FF who had witnessed various problems with Grof therapy. A fair number of FF people had reacted to Gibsone’s manic imposition of HB within their community. Some were persuaded that Gibsone must be right because he was the protégé of the founder Eileen Caddy (1917–2006), reputed to be the recipient of divine messages.

4.   Casualties  in  Holotropic  Breathwork

The major critic was Kate Thomas (b. 1928), who reported that a number of FF members had actually left the community because of their concern about HB (ibid., p. 104). Thomas did not pump up the volume, but instead tried to turn off the loudspeakers. She was vanquished by Gibsone, who awarded himself a megastar role as a practitioner of HB. Gibsone was assisted by the ruthless policy of Eric Franciscus, who presided over what was called "Education" and who became feted as a workshop authority.

FF lore eschewed the casualties of HB. One of the victims was a woman "who was so disorientated following a breathwork session that she sat in her caravan for several weeks unable to overcome her symptoms or take up her daily work" (ibid., p. 105).

Another victim of HB is reported to have become "virtually insane" for a fortnight, being unable to wash or feed herself, thus needing substantial help just to stay alive. The woman who had to look after this victim regretted not calling for an ambulance, but feared ejection from the FF if she made such a move. The helper lived with her young child in a rented caravan. Shortly after, she was rewarded for her nursing labours by being callously ejected from the community by the management, the reason being that her caravan stood on the site required for a new "eco-house" (ibid.). These new edifices were part of the surge in ecobiz and the new executive staff positions with salary. Dissidents and victims were quelled and ejected, while Gibsone, Bloom, and others flourished in the "planetary transformation."

A male casualty of HB suffered a nervous breakdown from the traumas induced. His severe illness lasted for nearly two years. His supposedly expert mentors at the FF convinced him that his breakdown was a consequence of his own inadequacy in receiving the "spiritual" technique of HB. Yet in sheer desperation, the victim finally sought the help of another FF counsellor. This man was more sensitive, and was so alarmed by events in general that he reported some details to the SCO. The management then ejected the disaffected counsellor on the pretext that he was a trouble-maker. The testimony of the disaffected included the detail of "drug parties" being held within the FF. Yet the SCO took the surprising attitude that such matters were merely personal disagreements amongst members (ibid., pp. 105–6).

The SCO had a habit of cutting down on paperwork, their staff numbers being very inadequate. Victims and dissidents found that many complaints were ignored by the SCO, who were only galvanised into action about HB by Edinburgh University. In short, the SCO were an impediment second only to the FF management.

5.   The  Bloom  Workshop  Rave

Sufferers were thrown into oblivion by "experts" like Dr. Bloom, who was not a medic and whose academic proficiency is very much in question. He was constantly taking the limelight in sensational workshops, while his talks were loaded with new age improvisations. A workshop pamphlet issued by Bloom in 1995 stated that he had a doctorate in psychology. His name was printed in large capital letters alongside the Piccadilly address. Additional auspices were those of an "open mystery school," this being a keynote for a three-day workshop in HB. The stipulated charge of £135 was moderate by comparison with some mainline Grof events (in which over £400 could be charged for a week, as at the FF).

The pamphlet also listed various aspects of Dr. Bloom’s expertise as follows: "angels, archetypes, blessings, empowerment, healing, holotropic breathwork, meditation, money, psychic protection, therapy." These additional credentials are perhaps alarming rather than impressive, and critics affirm that he was misusing his Ph.D. The ingenuity of the presentation is not something to be overlooked, however, as the statement appears that "changing times require changing strategies." Bloom’s strategy was further identified in terms of "the Western mystical and earth mysteries traditions." (Cf. Shepherd, Minds and Sociocultures Vol. One, Cambridge 1995, pp. 930–1.)

The breathwork lobby gained a false sense of reassurance when Dr. Grof was invited (from America) to attend a conference at Cambridge in August 1995. This was not a university-sponsored event, but one organised by the Scientific and Medical Network (SMN) and related alternative bodies. However, the conference did occur at St. John’s College, and therefore some small onus does rest with that institution for assisting public hazard at a crucial juncture. Bloom is associated with the SMN, and has been described as a long-term member. The increasing "alternative" complexion of the SMN has led some members to exit in revulsion.

The over-confident Dr. Bloom likened the negative effects of HB to a "good rave or disco" (Hypocrisy and Dissent, p. 101). The hazardous deejay of Alternatives was assisting the FF cordon against voices of protest. He may have been influenced by the FF manifesto entitled The Kingdom Within (1994), which blandly stated that the "positive impact [of HB] on the lives of many individuals here has already been considerable" (ibid., p. 101). That same deceptive work (mirroring Gibsone lore) affirmed Grof’s definition of HB as "a spiritual technique with an ancient shamanistic lineage" (ibid.). That is sheer fantasy. In "planetary transformation" unsound suggestions are relayed to the multitude of gullible consumers comprising the new age.

HB is not shamanism but an Esalen contrivance programmed to profit margins. Grof Transpersonal Training is not a charity. HB uses prolonged hyperventilation, to the accompaniment of loud music and "bodywork." Hyperventilation means an abnormally increased speed and depth of breathing. Setbacks include the use of buckets, bowls, and plastic bags for the vomiting (and choking) which can easily occur, and also for the involuntary discharge of urine and related movement of the bowels. Many of the participants are subject to screaming due to the pain of abnormal breathing. Some traumas have required participants to be held down forcibly on the floor by supervisors. Women are particularly subject to the stress, and some males can become violent. Memory can become very intense, and powerful hallucinations can easily be induced. The after-effects of HB are unplumbed by pseudo-shamanism. Euphoria can also be induced, but this is deceptive. Much mystification has enveloped the subject of the ASC (altered state of consciousness) in relation to HB. The claim of "spiritual states" is very unconvincing. There are less glamorous explanations such as the deprivation of oxygen to the brain. "Beyond the brain" themes jump relevant data. (Pointed Observations, p. 152).

6.    Bloombiz  and  the  Money  Game

At the end of 1995, the Anglican Church authorities belatedly acted to prohibit HB, and Bloom had no choice but to stop dabbling in this dangerous pastime. Yet that did not affect the pump-up process. He found that there were much easier prospects for the workshop profiteer. In short, Bloombiz became an alternative to Grofbiz.

There were other experiments to hold the clientele in thrall. Some workshops promoted by Bloom had titles like "The Money Game" and "Prosperity Consciousness." These phenomena were discernibly linked to the sanction for greed occurring at the FF, started by Gibsone and endorsed by Eileen Caddy, who abetted the excuse to think in terms of large financial sums (Hypocrisy and Dissent, p. 190). In 1995 the FF published the book by Bloom entitled The Christ Sparks. This curiosity describes how the author became a psychic channel for a "group consciousness" surpassing earthly dimensions. The FF were able to bask in the light of being considered a place of manifestation for the elevated consciousness. New age "channelling" had become a big money-spinner in America, and Dr. Bloom was not one to climb down from the bandwagon.

A dubious Bloom promotion in 1996 was the workshop entitled "Spiritual Assertiveness, Personal Power." This was a gesture towards one of the most suspicious new age trends. Self-assertion has been encouraged by some therapy programmes, and sometimes mistakenly interpreted as a spiritual necessity. There is a widespread confusion about what the word "spirituality" signifies. Personal power might easily relate to Abra Melin magic, though the spiritual significance is much in question.

In 1998 Bloom resigned from the Directorship of Alternatives, but continued to make regular appearances at St. James’ Church, his influence strongly persisting. (In the Shadow of the New Age, p. 161.) An example of the psychology at work here is afforded by a 1999 ad for an Alternatives workshop: "Increase your Income/achievements/energy." This has been called "yuppie spirituality" (ibid., pp. 159–160), which could be revised in terms of yuppie performance.

7.    Promotion  of  Margot  Anand  Eroticism

The supposedly transformative Findhorn-Piccadilly circuit is not noted for scruple except in terms of ejecting victims and censoring dissidents. It became a haven for such unlikely transformers as the Rajneesh cult, which during the 80s had afflicted Oregon with a plan of food-poisoning that might have proved catastrophic for the American population. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (d. 1990) is associated with extreme promiscuity, MDMA, and terrorism. His controversial books and cassettes were still being promoted after his death by the FF, who ignored the due complaints of Kate Thomas in this direction (Thomas, The Destiny Challenge, Forres 1992, p. 983). The FF preferred to promote the erotic teaching of Margot Anand, a disciple of Rajneesh whose extremist Neo-Tantra is epitomised in her refrain that "High Sex takes the experience of orgasm to a new dimension." The doubtful profundity of the Rajneeshi obsession with sexuality is no recommendation for the FF policy.

In 1998 the FF bookshop supplied a descriptive ad appearing in an FF magazine, an ad which eulogised a book by Margot Anand in terms of "an advanced course in erotic enchantment and the magic of extended orgasm" (K. Thomas, The Kundalini Phenomenon, Forres 2000, p. 32). The same book was queried that same year even in the permissive American new age magazine known as What is Enlightenment? This was because Anand flagrantly enticed with crude sexuo-magical techniques promising the acquisition of, e.g., a new job, a new house, or a new lover (ibid.). The FF was hopelessly undiscriminating by comparison, and inspired such people as the academic who obsessively sought prolonged sexual experience after reading Anand (Minds and Sociocultures Vol. One, pp. 940–1; Hypocrisy and Dissent, p. 73). The Rajneesh cult infiltrated the Piccadilly venue, with the result that St. James’ Church has  been downgraded for permitting the glorification of Rajneesh (In the Shadow of the New Age, p. 165).

The erotic volume was pumped up by the workshop contractors. The FF patronage of Margot Anand culminated in Oct. 2001, when she was prominently featured as one of the speakers at an FF "international conference" entitled Sex and Spirit. She was described in the FF promotional literature as a bestselling author and founder of eight (Neo)Tantric institutes worldwide. The promotion also described her as having developed "a method of healing and enhancing sexuality." That method is denoted by the word ecstasy (more specifically, sexual ecstasy). The familiar new age theme "to learn to love ourselves deeply" also emerged here, one which has very questionable consequences for personal motivation. The promotion emphasised some of the questions that would be asked in this radical conference. For instance: Is it time to ground our spirituality in our body? Who could ever imagine what the answer would be. Yet further: How do intimate relationships become a spiritual path?

Such beguiling themes of "intimacy and ecstasy" have misled many consumers who confuse sensation with something profound. Some critics say that the "intimate couple" workshops and gay workshops favoured by the FF have the effect of predisposing unwary appetites to sensual stimuli instead of to relevant education, which goes missing and is frequently repudiated when encountered.

8.    New  Spirituality  is  a  Deception

The "new spirituality" is more than slightly suspect. Bloom did not teach Rajneesh Neo-Tantra, though he was rumoured to be hand in glove with the FF workshop contractors and promotion team. He was anything but a conscientious objector to the vogue for new age profits that buttressed personal power. One of the themes he encouraged was that traditional mysticism had been superseded by the workshop craze. By 1998, his own workshop menu had formulated audacious claims which could offend traditional Indian ashrams and adherents of Christian mysticism (not forgetting Buddhists and Sufis). Bloombiz lured customers with such refrains as: "You can transform your life at this weekend initiation. Learn the simple and practical steps which will enable you to experience the consciousness and healing power previously thought only available to gurus, saints and mystics" (The Kundalini Phenomenon, p. 78). This refrain resembles the Grofian claim to illumination, and is ultimately derived from Esalen.

The casualties were mounting. Traumas and sex mania, delusions and self-affirmation. Disillusionment was kept at bay by such measures as the FF cordon (also known as "mafia"). New Age relativism permits anything except the truth. Bloom’s capricious career as the new age psychology guru was matched in part by the FF role of Eric Franciscus, who was in charge of "Education." That meant therapy and workshops which failed to recognise elementary priorities. Franciscus was not a practitioner of HB, but he did condone that disruptive exercise. He ruthlessly censored (and slandered) the dissidents who spoke out against the problems which emerged within the FF, and retained his image of the therapy genius elected by God.

The deity here was perhaps Sathya (Satya) Sai Baba, whose ashram Franciscus visited in 1991. "Eric’s major inspiration is known to be Sathya Sai Baba" (The Destiny Challenge, p. 983). The visit to Puttaparthi and Auroville was attended by an FF fee of £2,500 for those accompanying the therapy genius who believed in Sathya Sai miracles. Sathya Sai Baba has since become widely known as the worst guru of the twentieth century [according to some ex-devotees]. He parallels the Rajneesh cult in terrorist associations (including his alleged compliance in the 1993 bedroom murders), while his alleged appetite for sexual abuse makes even the lewd Rajneesh look temperate in the verbal incitements to orgasm. The myth of Sathya Sai Baba as the miracle guru was markedly assisted by the FF in the British sector. That myth has now been demolished, to the extent that no sober analyst can take seriously what the relativists choose to say in future about "miracles and healing" (see Shepherd, Investigating the Sai Baba Movement, Dorchester 2005, pp. 269ff).

In 2002, the neoshaman Craig Gibsone mounted a further HB event at Newbold House (Forres), a recurring venue for this officially suspended activity (resulting from the strong recommendation of the SCO). The act of defiance may be viewed as a desultory accomplice to the FF Orgasm Overture denoted by the sanctioned Neo-Tantra. The umbrella of the Bloom-FF pact has been insufficient protection against traumatic weather in the new age underworld. We learn from FF promotions that Gibsone is a "teacher of the International Holistic University and works internationally as a community building consultant." The imagination boggles at what damage globetrotting neoshamans, armed with HB, can inflict in countries even more defenceless than the SCO legislation zone. The reference to the Holistic University is evocative of Dr.Weil’s institution in South America, a geographic sector which perhaps even now is being laid waste by HB trauma and aftermath dysfunction. However, casualties will be concealed by UNESCO jargon about the model NGO.

9.   Pump  Down  the  Volume

Pump down the volume, so that the truth can be learned and the facts at last surface through the veil of propaganda. Planetary transformation should be revised in terms of potential and actual calamity. The cordon against dissidents has resulted in relevant information being squashed, that data having to compete against NGO blurb which was only achievable because of the retarded SCO policy. As a result, the Bloom-Anand-Grof coalition can pretend to a summit role unsullied by evidence to the contrary. Turn down the volume and file a prohibition against workshops facilitating situations in which suppressive cordoning tactics dominate PR.

Even Bloom had been a victim, though an uncomprehending one. His neo-hippy retreat near Marrakesh in 1972 had since become almost legendary, though researchable in The Sacred Magician: A Ceremonial Diary (Glastonbury, 1992). The "magical retreat" lasting for six months had resulted in an illness requiring convalescence for almost two years. That is not surprising given the nature of the Abra Melin text upon which Bloom fixated. This manual of ceremonial magic consists of invocations and attempts to evoke and control good and evil spirits. There is reason to believe that such practices are totally unsuited to the many readers misled by Bloom’s diary and related extravagances.

Some analysts believe that Bloom was inspired in Abra Melin magic by Aleister Crowley, who was a subject for hippy fantasies. Crowley had adopted the Abra Melin text in a translation and was pathetically addicted to the idea of controlling spirits (or demons). Bloom also indulged in this attitude, which may be defined as unhealthy. Bloom was subsequently ill with hepatitis and was virtually unable to move, according to his own report. He felt drained of all energy and his brain "functioned at a tenth of its normal speed" (The Sacred Magician, p. 150). This unenviable disability was presented as an achievement, which is perhaps reminiscent of the HB syndrome. Occultism so often makes people ill, even if they subsequently glorify the malady as a spiritual illumination. Crowley did just that, this credulous and self-seeking entity becoming addicted to a lifestyle of "sexual magick" and drugs (Pointed Observations, pp. 30ff., 133ff.). Another confused party was Timothy Leary, the psychedelic casualty who escaped from jail to become a Crowley enthusiast mesmerised by "Enochian" magic.

A relatively minor point is that there are deficiencies of scholarship in Bloom’s ceremonial diary. He merely reproduces details from the anachronistic version of S. L. Macgregor Mathers published in 1898, which was the same translation used by Crowley, who accordingly believed that vintage Jewish Kabbalah was in the offing. The Abra Melin text is actually pseudo-Kabbalah, and was not written by a Jew according to erudite Jewish research, being instead a sixteenth century derivative composed in German. Bloom made the further dilution of Jungian flourishes, the implication being that his "shadow" had been vanquished by the Holy Guardian Angel. (Minds and Sociocultures, pp. 933ff.).

The paperback cover of Bloom’s magic diary bore a misleading eulogy. "Dr. Wm Bloom has offered us a rare glimpse into a mystical process of initiation." That enthusiasm was written by David Spangler, an early FF spokesman of the 70s who purported to channel Limitless Love and Truth. One may disregard the exaggerations. The neo-hippies enthused about initiation in the same way that some adopted Grof neoshamanism, in total ignorance of any viable psychology. Via Spangler and Bloom, the FF was additionally encouraged to traffic in many books on magic visible in their bookshop; other FF promotions also glorified the sector of magic, with due consequences of atrophying taste.

10.   Contemporary  Workshops  a  Profiteering  Distraction

Occultist Bloombiz has claimed relation to modern psychology via the Ph.D. credential. Caustic comments have been made about this liaison. One of the most polite rejoinders is that, if truth is conceded to the factor of psychological improvement (in which Spinoza, Suhrawardi Maqtul, Plotinus, and many other philosophers believed),  then the contemporary workshop needs repudiation as a profiteering distortion.

In this spirit, one may analyse recent events in Bloombiz celebrated by the FF. We find that Bloom has reached the exalted stage of being valued at £475 fee for a workshop entitled "Neuroscience, Healing and Meditation: The Endorphin Effect." Synthetic painkillers can be soporific, is one retort. The phraseology implies a scientific ingredient, but the atmosphere denoted by the "magic of Findhorn" has gained a reputation for being anti-scientific and unscholarly. Science is too judgmentalist, and so on. The jingoism of new age neuroscience is particularly disconcerting, and is annulled by the pretension to healing that is now ubiquitous. Facile psychics claim to be psychotherapists. The link between neuroscience and meditation has been claimed in earlier and more convincing formats than Bloombiz, though sidetracked in some ways by the business consultancy syndrome started in the 70s by the TM (Transcendental Meditation) enthusiast Peter Russell, who is another FF hero. Brain scientists do not recognise quack healing as a legitimate accompaniment, and nor should anybody else aspiring to be literate.

Psychoguru Bloom was also one of the speakers in 2004 at an FF conference entitled "Spirit of Healing." The charge was £565. (Pointed Observations, pp. 205–6.) Such events are obviously not for the poor, even if they do last a week, and are no substitute for the education that is desperately needed instead of alternative therapy. Yet education is another buzz word at the FF. Of course, this factor is made more majestic by the phrase "intentional community." What does this rune really mean? Bloom has been described in FF promotions as "Britain’s leading teacher of holistic energy work." He is obviously the major support act for the FF promotions industry, and this begs the question as to what other support they have for claiming to be a "major international centre of adult education, and of personal and spiritual transformation." Critics cannot see the evidence of this in FF activities. Does adult education mean Rajneesh NeoTantra, gay workshops, Bloombiz, astroshamanism, the power of now, and similar visible tokens?

11.   Pseudo-Holistic  Cosmetic

There is also a Consultancy Service (including an HB practitioner) which claims to work with clients, who include Shell and BP, according to criteria of "socially and environmentally responsible business," and which teaches "embracing diversity – conflict" (minimum cost £285 for three days). None of this is proof of spiritual transformation, especially in view of the suppression of dissidents. Holistic signifies evasionism.

The FF have elaborately emphasised their NGO status as being on par with Amnesty International and World Goodwill. Key words in this promotion have been peace, education, sustainability, shelter. That amounts to cosmetic, say critics, who are able to remind about victims and dissidents who do not officially exist. The recently inaugurated Findhorn Foundation College has been a muted addition to the intentional mix, emphasising conflict transformation, though being totally ineffective in responding to a relevant suggestion made in 2001 to rectify the censorship of dissidents (Pointed Observations, pp. 216–17). That objective was dropped by the College when vetoed by Eileen Caddy, the figurehead who is supposed to represent divine guidance as reflected in her much duplicated slogan of "Be at perfect peace; all is working out according to My plan." Note the capital M.

12.    The  Art  of  Living  in  Discord

The preferred relation to World Goodwill may need further revision in the light of certain other facts on record. In 1993 the dissident Kate Thomas made a strong gesture towards reconciliation by attending an FF workshop entitled The Art of Living in Peace. This was associated with UNESCO recommendation, though it had been innovated by Dr. Pierre Weil, who was the supervisor at this event and who was advertised as the UNESCO adviser on Education for Peace.  (Weil was rector of an International Holistic University in Brazil whose patronage of the FF is much in question.)

The Peace workshop was held at Cluny Hill College, Forres, which was quite close to the home of the dissident. Yet an officious American staff member decisively prevented Thomas from entering the communal dining room after the first session. He did not wish to live in peace with a neighbour, even though he was "focaliser" of the peace workshop in a community who constantly emphasised conflict resolution. This man cultivated the image of a peacemaker, having joined an international peace camp in Iraq two years before (Hypocrisy and Dissent, pp. 110–12). The real status of the FF is more likely to be that of Anti-Neighbour Syndrome than World Goodwill. Dr. Weil’s feted workshop should be renamed The Art of Living in Friction, and is quite useless to realistically recommend.

A friend of Thomas was Jill Rathbone, another British woman. She moved from Cambridge to Forres in order to take a new job at the Moray Steiner School in 1994. That school was in the close vicinity of the FF premises in Forres, and it became evident that the latter regarded the former as being an FF extension. Upon arrival, Rathbone found that FF officials had influenced her new employers against her. She could not now obtain the job that had been promised her. The conspiracy was so unrelenting that the victim commenced a court case against the Moray Steiner School, who refused to accept the writ issued by the local Sheriff. This episode serves to illustrate the mood of defiance that can occur in FF sectors, such as hallmarked the continuation of HB in opposition to officialdom. The Sheriff "accordingly decided to intervene by freezing the financial assets of the Steiner School by public ceremony at their local bank" (Minds and Sociocultures, p. 926). The Sheriff’s office had to submit the writ for compensation three times before this was accepted.

In FF estimation, Rathbone’s crime had been that of being in contact with Thomas and in moral support of her position. Rathbone had been the close friend of Thomas for a decade. Rathbone and other dissidents knew that Thomas was not as the FF spokesmen chose to depict her. The Scottish legal system was very sympathetic to Rathbone, and she was successful in gaining compensation for a move which had left her stranded. (Hypocrisy and Dissent, pp. 154ff.) This is a very telling instance of the anomalies involved in the FF cordon against dissidents. The FF staff had influenced the Steiner School teachers so much that the latter would ignore Rathbone in Forres High Street whenever she encountered them. The vengeful anti-dissident mood may here be dubbed Extinct Goodwill.

13.   Discrepancies Need to Be Assimilated

The very same year that Rathbone was victimised as the friend of a dissident (and likewise banned from FF membership), an FF manifesto spoke eloquently in terms of "our purpose is to find the divine within, the criterion for which is the practise and experience of unconditional love" (A. Walker, ed., The Kingdom Within, Findhorn 1994, p. 68). Turn off the volume, so that the discrepancies can be assimilated.

Two years earlier, Dr. Bloom had stated in The Guardian that problems within the FF were "a sign of a healthy social organism" (Minds and Sociocultures, p. 925). This does at least prove that he was aware of the dissident situation in 1992. A Guardian journalist who became sympathetic to the dissident cause was accused by Bloom of judgmentalism and cultural snobbery (ibid.). The journalist complained of the "psychobabble" that hallmarked FF idioms (Hypocrisy and Dissent, p. 75).

14.   Television  and  Radio  Complexities

The existence of the FF cordon was one of the relevant factors completely missing from the series of tv programmes on the FF (entitled The Haven) contributed by Channel 4 in 2004. The quality of reporting was far below that of the realistic coverage in the BBC2 programme that same year entitled The Secret Swami. This profile of Sathya Sai Baba did get down to basics, and was in fact a useful gauge of realities pertaining to that very dubious guru (Investigating the Sai Baba Movement, p. 287). BBC Radio should perhaps ensure that no mistake is made in any form of competition with Channel 4 viewing. The public should not need to keep donating and to pay workshop fees to keep alive a bizarre form of miseducation claiming to be ecologically sustainable and spiritually inspiring.

15.    Pervasive  Confusions  and  New  Age  Ads

Fortunately, there are still critics of The Ruby Wax Show, an American spectacle in which Ram Dass (Richard Alpert) was described as a spiritual teacher (Minds and Sociocultures, p. 915). That was in the 90s, and seemed to contradict the admission of this celebrity during the 80s that he was a phoney holy (ibid., p. 65), a rare moment of honesty in such circles. Ram Dass seemed to revel in his acclaim of the 90s, achieving high celebrity profile in a chat show that featured many of the tiresome clichés of the alternative scene. Some partisans say that he had transited from his phoney Yoga phase to the realm of Western therapy.

When the ambiguous ex-phoney (or neo-phoney) visited the FF in 1991, the audience there hung upon every word he said, even those laconic phrases which seemed to make no sense at all (Shepherd, Some Philosophical Critiques and Appraisals, Dorchester 2004, pp. 41ff.). The ex-phoney made a number of superficial statements, according to one assessment, lending ground to the possibility that a source of confusion was still operative. The uncritical reception of "Be Here Now" talk is one reason why opportunists like Grof can make such inroads. The proclaimed commercial "truth" can so easily transpire to be false. That consideration might vanquish Bloombiz, Grofbiz, ecobiz, and many other drawbacks.

One of the magazines that has been used by many alternative therapists (including Bloom) is Kindred Spirit, which contains many ads that are frequently very questionable. This showcase for new age vanities and predators has recently included an ad associated with an American "breathworker" which could be considered very offensive by contrasting taste. That ad for "holistic holidays" states: "From famous masters to Yoga to ‘Fuck it’ weeks." (Kindred Spirit, 2006, Issue 78, p. 76.) Workshop ingredients are strongly implied, including so-called masters and the devalued Yoga.

The use of the f--- word is never admirable, though now almost ubiquitous in the fall-out from the Dirty Speech movement inaugurated by the American hippy boom of the 60s. That movement has been canonised by Hollywood and other retarded establishments who penalise the English language. When such obscenity passes for contemporary wisdom, a conflation which is perhaps the ultimate achievement of new age commerce, one is obliged to argue that, if there is any cordon to be maintained, then the four letter word specialists are those most in need of blockade. Similar arguments apply to those who flout medical warnings, official rulings, NGO responsibilities, and other due considerations.

Yours sincerely,

Kevin  R. D. Shepherd

 

Supplement

The Letter to BBC Radio contains the muted phrase “Bloom did not teach Rajneesh Neo-Tantra.” This requires modification in the light of certain implications. In Feb. 2007 a correspondent of mine sent details of two talks given by William Bloom (under the auspices of Alternatives) at the Columbia Hotel in Lancaster Gate during 1997. These talks were part of the “Sword and Chalice Evenings” series promoted by Bloom. My correspondent personally attended both of these talks, and gives a direct report accordingly. The first talk was entitled “Relationship, Sex and Spirituality,” and during this Bloom was observed to be “making cheap sexual innuendoes, miming masturbation, endorsing Margo(t) Anand, advocating a neoReichian approach and claiming to have opened our lower, sexual chakras during the course of what amounted to a showman’s clowning with some rather serious matters.”

The second talk was entitled “Invisible Beings Who Help Us, Energies, archetypes, angels and spirits.” My correspondent was even more perturbed by this discourse, which “was even worse, and by Bloom’s own acknowledgement, ‘wacky.’” The firsthand report continues:

Before the talk, I considered myself prepared for Bloom’s wackiness, as he had previously asserted (in print) that angelic presences guided the discovery of antibiotics, and that a school of spirits oversaw the Houses of Parliament (see Bloom, Devas, Fairies and Angels, a Modern Approach, 1996). For much of the talk, Bloom chose to detail his experiences with the Abramelin ritual, and at one point dropped to his knees in comic imitation of his prayerful devotion in that ritual. Although he made passing reference to his contracting hepatitis B, the acutely senile effects of which he apparently loved, his audience might not have laughed quite so hard at his comedic antics had they known that Bloom’s ritual included the abuse of his partner, Francis. Bloom “virtually beat her up … occasionally slipped into hysterical screaming … and at one point … threw her … onto the floor” (Bloom, The Sacred Magician, a ceremonial diary, 1992, p. 107).

Despite this known detail, Bloom recommends that we practise, as a path of “mysticism,” our own form of ceremonial magic by inviting spirits, so as to be “educated.” Bloom’s purported education included the following advice (I made notes during his talk and supplemented them immediately afterwards to ensure accuracy):

“Spirits have consciousness. Some get caught up in the workings of nasty, perverted human beings, ritualists who do disgusting things, sometimes for sexual reasons. These are not malevolent spirits but have absorbed very unpleasant characteristics. We need to remember that there is Satanism with sex, abuse of children, certain aspects of the Third Reich, a history of people abusing and invisible beings who are not helpful. If you are inexpert or an egoist on a power trip, thrilling at the experience may let them manifest behaviour through you. That happens. If however you are nice, centred and know what you’re doing, like me, you can do one of two things. Go, ‘Piss off,’ or say ‘Fine, thank you for coming.’ Let it enter your body fully, stay very still, very pure, very prayerful, absorb and release it. Let love transform it, like holding a child and then it passes.”

I had no desire for Bloom’s “education,” nor was I alone in this. One young man (Sean) expressed the view that the suggestions of Bloom were irresponsible, that it was exceptionally dangerous to play with such spirits. Sean was evidently speaking from an angle implying his personal experience of danger in these matters. Yet Bloom’s response was to deviously imply that Sean had said: do not do this unless you have a strong sense of calling, unless you are psychologically stable. At this point, I also objected, pointing out that Sean was clearly advising that we should not entertain spirits under any circumstances. Bloom seemed lost for words for a while, but finally responded: “I have a fundamental belief that universal nature spirits are benevolent.” I felt that his own experiences with the Abramelin ritual should have led him to quite different beliefs.

When further pressed by the critics in his audience, Bloom acknowledged that perhaps he should have been more aware of “people at risk” among his audience. Yet this “humble” stance of Bloom was surely disingenuous: as a self-acknowledged “energy worker” for twenty years, Bloom must have faced many similar objections before, and should have examined his conscience rather more closely than his bank account. The latter had no doubt led to his publishing at length a very similar ritual for conjuring evil spirits (see Bloom, Psychic Protection, Creating Positive Energies for People and Places, 1996, p. 126).

In my view, Bloom represented the worst aspects of new age capitalism as manifested within the Findhorn Foundation, with which he was so closely connected. In that organisation profit outweighed moral or ethical codes, and even basic health considerations. (Here ends the report of the correspondent  D.G.)

The scope for superstition and exploitation may be further reflected in the Wrekin Trust Forum for Spiritual Education [Wrekin Forum], who have included Bloom on their Council. New age organisations need monitoring, despite any myth that the spirits overseeing the Houses of Parliament are guiding the British nation to heaven.

 

Kevin  R. D. Shepherd

February  2007

 

LINKS

Findhorn  Foundation  Commercial  Mysticism (2008)

Letter  to  Robert  Walter MP (2008)

The  Findhorn  Foundation: Problems (2009)

Kate Thomas  and  the  Findhorn  Foundation (2009)

Findhorn  Foundation (2010)

Dangers  of  Alternative Therapy (2011)

 

Copyright © 2011 Citizen Initiative. All Rights Reserved. Page uploaded August 2007, last modified July 2011.