Working with the Benevolent Energies of the Universe: Interview with William Bloom
Let me get this off my chest at the very beginning. I have had enough of being thought an oddball because of my belief in the spirit and angelic reality and my experience of it. It exists. And it is important. It is part of the fabric of nature and the universe. It is part of the creative beauty and juice of all life. Knowing this is deeply relevant to the social and environmental problems of our time.
— William Bloom from the Introduction of Working with Angels, Fairies and Nature Spirits
While browsing in a bookstore on my most recent visit to Glastonbury, England I was drawn to a small book called Working with Angels, Fairies and Nature Spirits. I know it is possible to have a conscious, reciprocal relationship with nature so I bought a copy. I arrived home to unseasonably hot weather and a garden that demanded my immediate attention. A few weeks later, with veggies planted and herbs and flowers taking off, I remembered that little book waiting on my bookshelf and eagerly began reading. It was a breath of fresh air! Here was someone who felt the magic of the universe and was able to translate it beautifully. I learned a lot from that little book, William Bloom's guide to the "invisible companions throughout the universe" in which he shares personal experiences and offers suggestions and exercises to help readers sense nature spirits and tune into them.
William Bloom may not be very well-known in the U.S. but he is one of Britain's leading holistic teachers and has long been associated with the Findhorn Foundation where he still teaches. William was born in 1948 and grew up in London. He was a "full-time participant in swinging London, flower power, and counter-culture," and then an editor at Macmillan's where he founded the Open Gate imprint to promote counter-culture books. After a life-changing, two year retreat living with the Saharan Berbers in southern Morocco, he moved to Glastonbury and founded a small community and meditation group. Later, as a mature student he received his doctorate in political psychology at the London School of Economics (where he also taught), as well as a Certificate in Education from Garnet College. In 1988, he co-founded and directed the Alternatives Programme at St. James's Church, London's major platform for new age and holistic perspectives. He has written numerous books, teaches and runs workshops internationally, and has regular bases in Denmark, Norway, Bulgaria, and Slovenia. In August 1998, Bloom persuaded the UN Oslo Conference on Religion and Belief to give the New Age and holistic approach equal status among established religions. William currently lives in Glastonbury with his family.
Bloom is a gifted translator of the ineffable into words. His latest book, The Endorphin Effect, offers a simple yet profound understanding of how we can become aware of our connection with the energies of the universe and integrate this awareness into our bodies, minds, and emotions, and most importantly, into our daily lives. It's also the culmination of his work to-date, integrating the latest scientific research on endorphins and their role in human health and well-being with his previous work with nature spirits, the Earth spirit and holistic health care. Now, more than ever, as we feel the need to call on the benevolent energies of the universe to uplift humanity in our times of strife and change, we are also in need of having this process translated into words and concepts we can understand. It seems William Bloom might be onto something.
Susan Meeker-Lowry: I admire the way you integrate the human body, mind, and spirit with the spirit of the Earth, the universe and even the cosmos. The language you use resonates with me.
William Bloom: I've tried very hard in the last three decades to evolve a language that everybody can hear and people can listen to. Ten years ago I started an experiment called the Open Mystery School to facilitate learning the teachings of the old mystery schools but without the use of symbols or language that are restricted to one tradition. The goal was to put the old traditions into a modern format. This became what is now my Core Energy Management Training that I teach at Findhorn and elsewhere.
Susan: I think your concept of the "practical mystic" is extremely important right now. Could you talk about that for a bit?
William: Practical mystics are people who understand that the universe and nature are extremely creative, powerful, benevolent and mysterious and they want to deepen their experience of it. At the same time they realize that the experience is part of a package that includes personal development, environmental awareness, and social awareness. So the question for me, and the question I keep raising for my students is this: As you experience more deeply the beauty and power of the universe, can you then translate this into something that is of service to your own growth and the growth of the community around you? It has to be grounded in practical work which can range from good deeds in the three dimensional solid world to energetic work. In the mystical traditions there is a clear appreciation that one's thoughts, attitudes, meditation and prayer work have an effect on the world around us.
Susan: In your book Ley Lines and Ecology you say that ley lines are the essential structure of the etheric body of the Earth spirit and you paint a beautiful picture of a living Earth in a living and purposeful universe and cosmos. The idea of the Earth spirit having a purpose is especially hopeful since it means humans are intimately connected to that purpose.
William: Yes, we are as much part of the Earth spirit as the redwoods are. There's a lovely Alan Watts phrase you may have come across: "In the same way that a tree leaves, the universe peoples." As a species and as individuals we emerge out of nature and the universe. As I see it, the complex society in which we live has created a context for our lives which is overstimulating and intense. It creates a background buzz of tension and anxiety. Our natural physical and energetic flows have become frozen and we've forgotten that we are part of the whole flow of the universe. So a lot of our work in terms of bringing some sanity back to our global culture is in creating situations in which people experience more what is natural, and what is natural is to be part of the flow of nature and the universe.
Susan: You also say that the Earth spirit's purpose is to distribute a new quality of energy to the fields of energy that make up Her body and that human beings experience this new quality of energy as unconditional love. You describe this energy as "that cosmic principle which actually brings about what we recognize as life and the life force." To me this is an awesome possibility. It implies that when we feel unconditional love, we are contributing to the unfolding of the universe, we are a force for life.
William: The bottom line is that when people experience the energy of nature and the universe and the sensation of that moving through them, without exception it is benevolent and positive and full of creative growth. It is love. Healing doesn't require a quantum leap in consciousness; it requires a softening back into a natural state which we then guide with intelligence and wisdom.
Susan: In Working with Angels, Fairies & Nature Spirits, you come right out and say that nature spirits and devas are real. One of the things I've noticed when I talk about such things is that people often take it as a language of metaphor.
William: Nature spirits are one hundred percent real for me, as they are for many others. There is an intertwining field of energy and consciousness alongside the one we can see and touch and feel. Out of these fields emerge specific consciousnesses and beings that work with nature and energy that are real in their own right. They would exist even if there were no human beings on the planet.
Susan: Many people who believe in fairies say that they have all but disappeared because of the way we treat the Earth.
William: There's a distinct energy field surrounding every plant, every blade of grass, every flower. That energy field is, in a sense, the spirit of the plant. The reality is that human beings are so overwhelmed by the stimulation of modern society that they simply don't feel the magic of the plants. If you live on the fringes of civilization, like western Ireland or the Alps where you're not frowned upon for talking about these things, then fairies and nature spirits are still talked about, they're still perceived as being alive.
Susan: In Dora Van Gelder's book, The Real World of Fairies, she describes the different kind of fairies and actually gives a physical description based on her experience and the experience of other members of her family who were also gifted with the ability to see nature spirits.
William: This is the beginning of an interesting discussion. How spirits are perceived varies from culture to culture. Nature spirits will be perceived as Pan-like in northwestern Europe or as half-human, half-eagle in southwestern U.S. Images are culture bound. But beyond that, when many people hold to particular images and project them onto the nature spirits, energetically that actually creates the form. But asking what a spirit looks like isn't a very useful question. They are there, they exist, and the important thing to ask is: what is the easiest way for you to perceive them and sense them? And then work from there.
Susan: How can we open to the devic reality? Plants for example.
William: Sit next to a plant and be quiet with it for ten minutes a day and be receptive to whatever impressions you get. It's as simple as that. It's basically being quiet and grounded and receptive to an impression. If you do this over a period of months you'll begin to notice what feels true as opposed to what might be imagined or projected. The wisdom, the genuine sense of knowing whether something is true or not, comes over a period of time. Impatience is absolutely useless in these situations. What will happen is over the months and the years you'll know what feels true and what doesn't. And you'll get to know how it best works for you. In workshops on nature spirits, the first question I ask is, "When you've had a sense of magic in a forest or wherever, how did you notice it? How did it register with you?" And I get a vast array of responses. A few people get pictures but many others will say, "I had a tingling sense in my back" or "I felt calm" or "I felt warmth in my heart" or "I heard a peculiar humming sound." Then I say to people at that point, "Well that's the way this kind of stuff registers with you. Take notice and stop trying to use somebody else's model."
Susan: In your books you use the phrase "stretching the tingle"… What does that mean?
William: People say to me, "I went to the forest and I noticed a flashing light or a tingle went through me and then it was gone." Well, what was happening in that precise moment was their energy field was touched by something out there — a nature spirit — and a little tingle went through their energy field and registered in their nervous system as a shiver or sound or a flash of light. That was just a knock on the door to tell them something was there.
When this happens, your job is to immediately go quiet and just be receptive to impressions. The reality is that when people are in the middle of a forest and sense something, they actually get a bit frightened. It's a new experience. So they don't want to sit and be quiet, they want to get out of there. But what you need to do whenever this kind of thing happens — and it doesn't always happen in forests — is be totally quiet and just sit there with no expectations and see what you feel. If you do that a hundred times next to a particular glade in a forest, sooner or later you are certainly going to get some interesting perceptions.
Susan: Your latest work with endorphins seems particularly powerful. I know endorphins are considered "feel good" hormones but it seems like there's a lot more to it than that.
William: Endorphins are hormones, chemically similar to opium and its derivatives that are produced naturally in the body. They remove stress and pain, enhance the immune system, maintain flexibility and openness of blood vessels and enhance good feelings. In other words, happiness and pleasure are built into the biological foundation of the human body. The role of endorphins in the human body has been proven through rigorous scientific research, but it requires a more holistic perspective to appreciate their full significance. The Endorphin Effect integrates two important concepts: the mind-body connection, which makes it possible to effect biological changes by using the mind, and the body's electromagnetic field. The physical body is also electromagnetic and as such it can connect with other magnetic wave fields in nature and the universe. What's also very interesting is that endorphins are found in all living creatures — even tiny single-celled organisms. Does this mean even microscopic organisms experience happiness? I don't know, but it's an optimistic possibility. What it does mean is that happiness and pleasure are built into the biological foundation of the physical body.
Susan: You're not saying that our emotions are just the result of chemical changes?
William: Absolutely not. The body produces endorphins in response to pleasurable external events which we may or may not have control over, but it also produces endorphins in response to pleasurable internal events. In other words, closing your eyes and thinking of something you love also triggers endorphins. The point is that you can use your mental and imaginative ability to change the biochemistry of your body and, hence, your mood and your experience of life.
Susan: You talk about the peak experience that many of us have had, and the difficulty holding that peak experience as we go about our daily lives. Is this something an awareness of endorphins can help with?
William: Yes. I've completely changed my attitude towards peak experiences over the last ten years. I started as a classical, extremely disciplined meditator. I practiced up to five hours a day and at one point I did a two year retreat. I believed that peak experiences only happened if I was very disciplined. Thanks to my students, I've gotten more in touch with a different kind of reality. The fact is, most people do have peak experiences but they don't recognize them as such. They happen all the time both as little things and as huge events. They need to be recognized and they need to be honored.
For instance, for a guy watching a football match when his team wins, that moment when he experiences elation over the win is in fact a short, but quite deep peak experience. He'll experience a rush of endorphins. He'll also experience a huge sense of connection with the crowd, and a huge feeling of elation. If you were to pause that moment, freeze-frame it, and say to him, "Hey, what do you think about the universe?" he'd say, "It is fantastic and wonderful!"
In the past the mystical traditions didn't honor and respect these experiences that are absolutely natural to people. They looked for them within the rigid confines of a particular tradition that to a degree they could control. But ordinary people have peak experiences all the time. You can be sitting there in a good mood and suddenly you feel great and connected to everything. The question is whether you recognize that you're having a peak moment. Once you recognize you're in a state when your general feeling and relationship with the world has changed, you need to press the pause button at that point. You need to become self-aware, self-reflective of the experience and then guide it into something deeper and more meaningful.
Susan: How can we do that?
William: Trick number one: notice when it happens. Trick number two: register that you're having the experience and just give way to it, allow it to enter you more fully. One of the features of this experience is that the benevolent wavefields of the universe are always there and you're feeling them. The way in which your body translates this experience is to produce endorphins. If you pause in the moment of the experience and allow a sensation of being like a sponge more deeply into you, then the benevolent energy, the vitality, the chi, whatever you want to call it — but it is benevolent — will enter more fully into you and at the same time the endorphins will be triggered throughout your body. It's like when people are making love. You can either have a small experience which is located in just one part of the body or you can relax more fully into it and allow something much deeper and longer to happen.
Susan: For me it happens when I'm sitting in my swing next to the garden or next to the river or in some beautiful place outside. It's just a totally natural thing. And I become aware of it and it feels great.
William: Tribal cultures have always known this. If you're not living a pressured life it's normal to be in that experience a lot of the time. I would say that the whole idea of the religious peak experience is something made up by patriarchal religious control freaks and what we actually need to realize is that those peak experiences are in fact what would be normal if we were living healthy lives.
The next issue that arises is whether this is a purely narcissistic and selfish thing to be doing. In a culture that worships the Protestant work ethic, personal pleasure doesn't seem to be a great asset. We need to understand that, in fact, the deepest connection with nature and the universe is experienced fully only when it is also expressed through you to the outside world. And this happens through our acts of good will, generosity, kindness and compassion.
The most valuable gift people can bring into their pressured lives and family situations is the ability to pause and retreat into themselves. You can almost do it in thirty seconds. Pause and allow your focus to come back deep into your body. Remember the things that you find beautiful and wonderful and allow that feeling to work through you. It's a basic strategy that is actually very effective when done carefully and intelligently. It can change a day that would otherwise be a recipe for complete burn-out into something that's more even-paced. The difficulty for people, and workaholics particularly, is just to get into the habit of pausing.
I'd like to note several really important points here. First, your whole body is the organ for perceiving and experiencing how you feel about life. Your body is the organ that senses whether or not benevolent vitality is flowing through it in a healthy way. If you do not give your body affectionate attention, then there's an alienated distance between your mind and your body, and that in itself will create tension and frigidity. Here's a simple exercise I teach my students: When you go to bed and again when you wake up in the morning, pause for about 30 seconds or a minute and turn your attention down into the great cavern of your chest and abdomen, down into your body. Wriggle your toes and have a few moments of affectionate attitude towards your vehicle. In the language of the ancient mystery traditions, treat the temple in which your soul dwells with love and respect. You can't do effective energy work or effective spiritual growth unless you have an affectionate relationship with your body.
Susan: One of the things you've said that struck me is that no matter what's going on in your life or in the world, the beauty is always there and I can connect to it at any time.
William: It is precisely that attitude which has gotten people through the death camps of Nazi Germany and through other horrendous situations.
Susan: Is it possible to effect the general vibrations of a political or economic system?
William: When people think and experience their emotions they generate energy which radiates beyond their physical bodies. If your thoughts are creative, positive and a loosening up of a tense situation then that will work benevolently within the situation. But if for example, people are concerned about a political situation and they send intense, worried energy or "stop doing that exclamation mark" energy, then all the political situation is going to receive is more intense, aggressive energy. So you have to be careful about how you generate energy. A wise man once said that to worry is to pray for what you do not want.
People need to get over their emotions and come to a point of being positive, creative, visionary leaders. You need a vision of wholeness and the ability to communicate it in such a way that people can feel its power and possibility. Nelson Mandela is a wonderful role model in that regard. His vision was not of a liberated Black Africa but of a racially integrated paradise, a healed society. Of course, a step towards that was to liberate his people but that wasn't his final vision. His politics and his communications were always contained within a very wide and huge vision. That's what is needed. It's from a higher vision that leadership and activism flow. We are not isolated units living in a closed universe. We are creatures of nature and the universe and in order to be healthy we need to know and feel this.