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Inside Kabbalah

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Radar Online is starting an “in-depth investigation into the history, teaching, and practices” of Kabbalah — Hollywood’s latest hot religion — and the family that is responsible for introducing Kabbalah to the world. Philip Berg is the man spreading the word since 1971, and as Mim Udovitch puts it, he has “created a multimillion-dollar brand out of a bastardization of an arcane branch of Judaism, larding it with pricey accessories and bold-faced names.”

Of course, the Bergs are unhappy about this, possibly fearing some sort of Operation Clambake.

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I believe that Kabbalah is simply wrong, as in false. That’s just my personal belief. However, Radar seems more interested in exploring the personal history of the Bergs. While that may be instructive, as it certainly is in the case of L. Ron Hubbard’s story in Bare-Faced Messiah, it isn’t what I would focus on were I devoting time to Kabbalah. After all, Berg could be a horrible person and Kabbalah still true — or so the thinking goes. On the other hand, it can hardly be a bad thing to focus attention on Kabbalah, since I think that when people pay close attention to it rather than just having it dance around the periphery of one’s attention, most people will recognize it as silly.

In any case, be sure to follow Radar Online’s series as it explores:

  • The false claims the Centre has made about its distinguished origins.
  • The Centre’s solicitation of freelance ghostwriters on the website Craigslist, to help the Bergs write “scholarly” books on Kabbalah, some of which the writers are encouraged to model on new-age best-sellers.
  • The previously unreported lawsuit that charged Philip Berg with copyright infringement and plagiarism.
  • The Centre’s penchant for lending money to companies owned by close friends and associates of the Bergs, including more than $2 million in loans to a company with a P.O. Box address that flips investment properties in such Los Angeles neighborhoods as Compton and Watts.
  • The Bergs’ luxurious lifestyle, in stark contrast to the bleak four-to-a-bedroom conditions and $35-a-month stipend they offer the full-time volunteers who cook and clean for them.
  • The Centre’s use of cultlike techniques to control members, including sleep deprivation, alienation from friends and family, and Kabbalah-dictated matchmaking.
  • The bizarre scientific claims made by the Centre’s leaders on behalf of Kabbalah Water, ranging from its ability to cleanse the lakes of Chernobyl of radiation to its power to cure cancer, AIDS, and SARS.
  • The Centre’s sponsorship of the Oroz Research Centre, a “23rd century” scientific institution that markets a “liquid compound for the treatment of nuclear waste” that also cures gynecological problems in cows, sheep, and other farm animals.
  • The Bergs’ plan to leverage celebrity congregants to expand the scope of their merchandising, and their failed attempt to lure Madonna to partner with them in a venture to repackage Kabbalah Water for the mass market.
  • The Bergs’ explicit strategy of steering Kabbalah away from its Jewish roots in order to appeal to a wider global market, and their plans to brand both the Centre and family members for maximum popular appeal.

Update: Part Two is now online, and focuses on the enormous amount of money flowing through the Kabbalah center, as well as the murky history of Philip Berg’s association with Kabbalah. One interesting tidbit: letters provided by the Kabbalah center to bolster Berg’s claim of being the rightful heir of a Kabbalah guru in fact state quite clearly that only Jews can receive Kabbalah’s wisdom. Perhaps nobody at the center reads Hebrew?

I’ll keep the series links updated below.

Inside Hollywood’s Hottest Cult
The Kabbalah Chronicles from Radar Online
Part One: Red String Theory
A four-month Radar investigation reveals how a renegade rabbi and his striver wife ended up atop a multi-million-dollar empire built on bracelets, bottled water, and Madonna.
Part Two: In the Beginning
Radar’s investigation of the Kabbalah Centre continues, focusing on founder Philip Berg, insurance salesman-turned- guru, and his second wife, who conceived the idea of dumbing down Jewish mysticism and selling it to the masses.
Part Three: Madonna’s Magical Mystical Tour
Demi! Ashton! Marla! Roseanne! When it comes to attracting celebrities, the Bergs have given Scientology a run for its money. But their lucky star is an aging pop icon who has funded the Centre to the tune of $18 million… and counting.
Part Four: There’s No Profit Like Non-Profit
How did a family of middle class mystics end up with matching mansions in Beverly Hills? Our final installment examines how the Kabbalah Centre is pouring millions into a network of businesses controlled by the Bergs and their minions.

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About pwinn

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    The bullet points are quoted from the Radar article, so they’re not my wording. I’ll link to the rest of the parts as they become available.

  • http://kabbalah4women.blogspot.com/ Josia

    Always trust your feelings – and go where your heart leads you – keep searching until you find what your heart is looking for – that’s what the big kabbalists tell us to do.

    “I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I believe that Kabbalah is simply wrong, as in false.”

  • http://selfaudit.blogspot.com Aaman

    It is the Berg – resistance is futile

  • Debbie

    I agree Josia. One must always go with his/her feelings and the soul always knows the truth. If something feels wrong it just is! Kabbalah is not a religion nor is it a something that should be used to exploit others. There is no coercion in Kabbalah.

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    “The soul always knows the truth.” This is so demonstrably wrong I can’t believe you managed to look at it on-screen long enough to hit submit without laughing!

    A psychopath’s soul knows the truth?
    A rapist’s soul knows the truth?
    The millions of people who’ve died fighting wars to resolve arguments, their souls have all known the truth?

    My soul generally tells me that everybody around me is dumb and that I deserve to have every beautiful woman I meet (which is the vast majority of them) in my personal harem, just because. I think my heart is lying to me, so I control myself.

  • Debbie

    Don’t get the ego mixed up with the soul. The soul is the inner core of what a person feels as right and wrong since the soul is connected to our Creator. The ego thinks only of things that a person wants or feels ( one’s selfish desires). The chills a person feels that go right to the core of his/her being that is the soul.

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    The chills that I feel are usually a biochemical response to information processed by my brain.

    I’m glad you trust your experiental perceptions; just try to stay away from any of the research that demonstrates how easily and often those perceptions are manipulated by the things around us.

    Re-labeling things doesn’t make them any less nonsensical.

  • Debbie

    Yes, our perceptions are manipulated by both our egos and our environment, but the truth is constant and does not change only our perceptions change.

  • chris

    Ein Od Milvado = There is None else beside Him

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    I’ve added a link to part 3.

  • tem

    the kabbalah centre is going down, and bnei baruch will soon be known as the only respectable kabbalah organization, http://www.kabbalah.info prevails over .com

  • http://earthlink.net kam

    the kaballah center is full of frauds. madonna is a fraud. they are greedy and fleecing people out of their money. they’ll get what they deserve from magazines and newspapers who slam them for stealing from people. it’s kind of ironic. Berg robs his slaves paying them $35 a month but is too sick to enjoy all the money he and madonna are fleecing people out of. and she looks absolutely miserable and tormented.

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    I finally added the link for part four. Sorry for the delay.

  • http://www.vrcelphotography.com goran

    Most of these points are describing the corruption of the Centre and it’s leaders – the way Kabbalah is operated. The law suits, luxurious life styles…etc… What does that have to do with Kabbalah itself? Nothing really… Kabbalah is not bad, it’s the leaders that are not all perfect.

    Catholic priests had received a bad reputation when it came to little boys, but that does not mean that Catholics or Christianity is a bad religion.

    The person who said, “I believe that Kabbalah is simply wrong, as in false.”

    Please be specific, Kabbalah or the people who run it?