‘Holistic’ foundation gives voice to non-religious spirituality

Following a campaign to acknowledge non-religious spirituality on the UK Census 2011, the Foundation for Holistic Spirituality is aiming to integrate a new emerging spirituality into public life

What did you tick on the religion box in the census earlier this year? William Bloom is hoping that, if you have a sense of spirituality, but aren’t religious, you wrote ‘holistic’ as your answer.

It’s been four years since William, a leading author and educator in the mind-body-spirit field, and his colleague Nigel Anthony, once a City based accountant, decided to form the Foundation for Holistic Spirituality (F4HS).

A not-for-profit, non-denominational organisation, F4HS is a supporting network for like-minded individuals and groups, which aims to give voice and platform to a new emerging spirituality. This spirituality it regards simply as a natural human connection with the wonder and energy of nature, the cosmos and all existence, together with the instinct to explore and understand its meaning.

“Holistic is shorthand for an openhearted, open-minded approach that recognises the connections between all aspects of life, celebrates diversity and respects the essence of all the world’s spiritual traditions,” says William.

With a doctorate in political psychology from the London School of Economics, William has 30 years experience in researching and teaching modern spirituality and has written a plethora of books, including The Endorphin Effect; The Holistic Manifesto, and most recently The Power of Modern Spirituality.

His background also includes ten years working with people with special needs, a two-year spiritual retreat living amongst the Saharan Berbers in the High Atlas Mountains, and co-founding Alternatives, which runs talks and workshops on contemporary spirituality and personal development at St James’s Church, Piccadilly.

This year’s census campaign was just one of several strands to the Foundation’s ongoing efforts to give spiritual people an equal voice to those of traditional religions, in politics, education and in everyday life.

William feels it is important that the spiritual perspective is democratically recognised by the census, because it would be used to guide national and local government policy. He wants spiritual people to have a coherent voice.

His primary concern was that the impact of the census results would influence, for example, the curriculum of religious studies in schools, the way in which pastoral and chaplaincy work is done in hospitals, colleges and prisons, and NHS initiatives that link spirituality with wellbeing.

Via another strand of their work, the Holistic Spiritual Alliance Project, William and Nigel encourage communities of spiritual people around the UK to link up with similar locals to engage with public bodies and local and national government.

There are 12 alliances now based around the UK. At the moment, representatives of traditional religions sit on public bodies, so F4HS think it’s only fair and appropriate that spokespeople for spiritual but non-religious people also sit on these boards.

Members of the alliance, of which there are currently about 3,000, are keen to get across their views about the world. They feel that the values that they have are sustainable and humane and are connected with the long-term wellbeing of individuals and communities.

By 2018, the goal of F4HS is to ensure that the concepts and strategies of a holistic approach to spirituality are fully embedded in the language of education, healthcare, social services, community building and the rest of public life.

To grow the movement further, the team have devised the Spiritual Companions Course, which trains mentors to work with others who are on their own holistic spiritual journey in life. The project is currently running in London, Norwich, Glastonbury and Harrogate.

F4HS has also begun to roll out the Holistic Map online, a kind of holistic Yellow Pages, which is attempting to map and list all UK centres, projects and people who are involved with a holistic approach to contemporary life and spirituality.

As the foundation continues to develop and look for new ways to spread its message, there is a good chance the movement could strengthen at a time when it seems much of society is looking for new meaning in life.

“The census was an obvious platform to say something positive,” says William. “Although we don’t yet know how successful we’ve been in terms of influencing people to fill in their census forms and won’t know the top line results until late 2012, we will continue to move forward with delivering real policy work including forming partnerships with relevant agencies, developing training programmes for education and the NHS, and overall translating modern spirituality into practical strategies that help schools, nurses, doctors and social workers too.”