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The Kabbalah Centre is a 501 not-for-profitspiritual organization with headquarters in Los Angeles, Californiamarker that provides courses online and through its local centres. To its proponents, the Kabbalah Centre is a spiritual organization that teaches principles of Kabbalah (Jew mysticism) in a unique and user-friendly system accessible to anyone, regardless of religion, race, age, or gender. This simplified presentation of Kabbalah was developed by its current leader, Philip Berg and his wife, Karen Berg, with opposition from the traditional religious establishment. The Kabbalah Centre comprises Jewish and non-Jewish teachers and students.

Jewish tradition has long held that Kabbalah is so complicated and so easily misunderstood that students may only begin to approach it with a strong background in Jewish law and only after age 40. The discipline's elements include the study of mystical texts, prayer and meditation in an attempt to draw closer to the divine. Some see the Centre as a perversion of Judaism's ancient and secretive mystic tradition.

History

Kabbalah Centre in New York City in 2008


The Kabbalah Centre was founded in the United States in 1965 as The National Research Institute of Kabbalah by Philip Berg (born Feivel Gruberger) and Rav Yehuda Tzvi Brandwein. After Brandwein's death, and after several years in Israel, Philip Berg and his wife Karen Berg, re-established the U.S. Kabbalah Centre in New Yorkmarker. The current headquarters of the Kabbalah Centre in Los Angelesmarker was opened in 1984. Karen and their sons Yehuda and Michael act as Directors and Spiritual Leaders of the organization. The organization is a registered non-profit with over fifty branches worldwide, including major ones in Los Angelesmarker, New York Citymarker, Londonmarker and Torontomarker.

Teachings

Courses

The Kabbalah Centre offers its teachings through various courses available at its centres and online. They include: Power of Kabbalah I/II/III, Wheels of a Soul, DNA of Success, Writings of the Zohar, and Ten Luminous Emanations.

Approach

Kabbalah is a collective of knowledge with roots in great antiquity. As with all knowledge, various methods of teaching it are possible. The Kabbalah Centre's approach to teaching is to start students with practical methods that do not make previous knowledge of Hebrew and Jewish texts a prerequisite for understanding. In addition to having no knowledge-based barrier-to-entry, the Kabbalah Centre's accessibility is uniquely enhanced by the absence of any religious, gender, age, or marital status discrimination.

The Kabbalah Centre often cites Kabbalah as the inspiration for recent scientific discoveries, including The Big Bang, String Theory, atomic structure, and Newton's Third Law.

The following present the Kabbalah Centre's basic teachings.

Relation to Religions

According to its views, all widely-held spiritual or religious belief systems are merely specific branches of a universal wisdom. The effect of this is a resemblance of religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism, as well as new-age teachings, to Kabbalah. In accordance with this belief, the Kabbalah Centre does not present itself as an alternative to any religion in particular, but rather, as a supplement to it.

The Bible

The Bible is not to be taken literally, as it is wholly a code, and can only be truly understood in this context. The Kabbalah Centre claims that its teachings, based largely on the text and understanding of the Zohar, provide the conventions to unlock and understand this code. This includes the true meaning of the days of creation in Genesis, and the story of Adam and Eve. However, some biblical passages, such as the Passage of the Red Sea, are spoken of as actual historical events. It is unclear whether the organization's definition of the Bible includes Christian writings, or represents only the Torah.

The Light

One should primarily be concerned with their relationship with the essence of God, rather than God Himself as He is beyond comprehension. The essence of God is referred to in its teachings as Light. In the beginning, there was only Light, but its nature was to share and it had no recipient for this natural desire. Therefore the Light created a vessel to be the recipient of the Light. Upon receiving this Light, the vessel came to inherit some of its properties, just as a glass, when filled with cold water, becomes cold itself. Chiefly, the vessel inherited the desire to share. To accomplish this, the vessel refused the Light, an act called Restriction, and thus broke into two parts so that it could share with itself. It is from these two parts that the souls of all males and females are derived, respectively. The breaking of the vessel created ten unique Sefirot, all of which have a particular relationship to humans and the perceivable universe.

99%

The "99%" is a frequently referenced terminology in Kabbalah Centre teachings that refers to the division of true reality. The five senses provide access to a mere 1% of reality, which is the byproduct of a 99% reality that cannot be accessed by the senses. Since the circumstances of the unperceivable 99% of reality dictate those of the 1% normally perceived, one must use Kabbalistic wisdom to access the 99%, thereby providing context to the 1%. No occurrence in life, in the 1%, is accidental or random; rather it is completely the calculated result of the 99%. All confusion, and appearance of chaos is an illusion created by the absence of such context. The 99% is characteristic of pure joy, understanding, and truth.

Restriction

Naturally, an event occurs, which triggers an emotional response, which one then acts on. To truly control a situation, one must consider one's emotional reactions themselves as the enemy, and not one's cause. If one is able to restrict himself from acting on his primary emotional reactions, the best possible course of action will come to him naturally. Only by restricting one's emotional reflexes to negative situations can one consciously remove the impact of his ego. One's instinct to egotistically react to a situation is referred to as the Opponent, or "The Satan". For example, when one is standing in line at the automated teller machine for twenty minutes, it is not the person in front of him, but his frustration that is the enemy. If one does not practice restriction, his existence becomes the automatic outcome of our circumstances, rather than a proactive experience of his creation.

Klippot

Kabbalah Centre teaches the Kabbalistic concept of Klippot. The idea is that everyone has a direct and clear connection to the upper metaphysical-spiritual world of the Light (Ein Sof, unbounded God), but that this channel is blocked by Klippot, restricting the spiritual energy from entering the physical body. It is through meditation and practice of Kabbalah teachings and Jewish law (which the Kabbalah Centre says is early Rabbinistic construction to aid in practicing Kabbalah without revealing its secrets) that one removes Klippot, and it is by violence and negative behaviour that one adds Klippot.

Astrology

The Kabbalah Centre has a strong belief in astrology, and asserts that astrology, including the Zodiac, has been part of Judaism since its inception. The Centre claims astrology was lost in Jewish tradition as part of the suppression of Kabbalah by rabbis nearly 2000 years ago (evidence of this includes ancient synagogues with zodiac rings). This claim is historically inaccurate, as astrology was studied by Jewish scholars throughout the Middle Ages, though it was opposed by more philosophically inclined thinkers such as Maimonides. As such, there is a strong belief in the Kabbalah tradition that cosmic forces affect everything, and knowing how to understand them can prove to be valuable to the aspiring Kabbalist. Philip Berg, the founder of the Kabbalah Centre, is himself an astrologer and has written numerous books on astrology during his career.

Sex

It is not recommended that men masturbate, as the sperm are abandoned souls that become demons. When a woman's insides come into contact with a man's sperm, they are coming into contact with the essence of their energy and are affected by this for several years. The man should not orgasm before the woman, as it injects selfishness into the act of love making. A couple should not engage in sex with the woman positioned above the man, as she is then drawing energies into herself from below, instead of above. The most Light is derived from sex that occurs early Saturday morning.

Celebrity followers

Madonna

Madonna studies regularly with a personal Kabbalah Centre rabbi, no longer gives concerts on Friday night (which is the onset of Shabbat), wears the red string around her left wrist for protection and to ward off the "Evil Eye" (Ayin Hara), has introduced Jewish ritual objects such as tefilin ("phylacteries") into her videos and tithes regularly to the Kabbalah Centre. Madonna was raised as a Catholic. In July, 2006 the media reported an unfounded rumour that Madonna was leaving the Kabbalah Centre. One media columnist speculated that one of reasons was due to alleged financial irregularities of donations to the centre. Despite the uncorroborated allegations of financial irregularities, the rumour turned out to be false, and Madonna continues to attend Kabbalah Centre events, even while on her current world tour. In fact, Madonna has collaborated with the Kabbalah Centre on a new project called "Raising Malawi", which will provide relief aid to the African nation of Malawimarker. When Madonna tried to partner "Raising Malawi" with UNICEF, due to this project's close association with the Kabbalah Centre, UNICEF demurred.Madonna converted from Catholic to Kabbalah during her 1996 pregnancy with Lourdes Leon. During their eight year marriage Madonna encouraged director Guy Ritchie to follow the faith and her current partner Jesus Luz is undertaking the studies.

Others

Lindsay Lohan has also had some involvement with the organization, and has been seen wearing the associated red string on her wrist. Other celebrities that have been associated with the Centre include Roseanne, Sandra Bernhard, Anthony Kiedis, Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall, Lucy Liu, Rosie O'Donnell, Naomi Campbell, Alex Rodriguez, Donna Karan, Britney Spears, David Beckham., Victoria Beckham, Paris Hilton , Nicole Richie, James Van Der Beek, Heather McComb, Zac Efron, and Lauren Conrad.

Controversy and Criticism

General

The authenticity of the organisation's teaching is disputed. The Kabbalah Centre has been described as an "opportunistic offshoot of the faith, with charismatic leaders who try to attract the rich and the vulnerable with the promise of health, wealth, and happiness." Some Jewish organizations distinguish it as non-Jewish and consider its patronage by Jews problematic as some forms of Judaism forbid Jews from participating with non-Jews in religious rituals. The Centre's self-help teachings and its sale of Kabbalah-themed merchandise has been criticized as a perversion of Judaism's ancient and secretive mystic tradition.

Holocaust

There was also media controversy in 2005 related to a recorded comment by a Kabbalah Centre leader regarding the Holocaust. According to a BBC news article, Eliyahu Yardeni, a senior figure in the London Kabbalah Centre has been quoted as saying, "Just to tell you another thing about the six million Jews that were killed in the Holocaust: the question was that the Light was blocked. They didn't use Kabbalah." This claim caused international outrage, with one scholar calling the statement "obscene".

Claimed cancer cure

A probe by an undercover journalist working for the BBC revealed that the Kabbalah Centre had made claims that spring water sold by the group had, amongst its effects, a curative effect on cancer. Reportedly, bottles were sold to cancer sufferers for "hundreds of pounds".

Accounting

In Israel, authorities have refused to give the organization a certificate of proper management for three years running (as of 2005) because of accounting inadequacies.

References



  • In 2007, Greenwood Press published Kabbalah and the Spiritual Quest: The Kabbalah Centre in America by Jody Myers (ISBN 978-0-275-98940-8). Dr. Myers is a historian, professor of Religious Studies and the Coordinator of the Jewish Studies program at California State University, Northridgemarker.


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