You may have wondered if, in our post-modern era, we might find a truly universal faith that would include anyone and everyone. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find a faith that included every tradition while transcending the limitations of each of them?
Other than the New Age movement, you would most likely look to India with its native Hinduism and Buddhism. You might possibly look to Islam, which inspired the Baha’i faith, or to such a Christian group as Unity, or the Unitarian-Universalist Association.
The last place you might think to look is to Judaism, which traditionally has been limited to ethnic Jews directly descended from Abraham. You typically didn’t choose to be Jewish, but were rather born into it. How, then, could Judaism even hope to offer a universal outlook for all people?
Have you considered the Kabbalists?
In recent years, some of the most prominent celebrities in Hollywood, such as Madonna, Demi Moore, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, not to mention Ashton Kutcher, have flocked to the Kabbalah Centre in Los Angeles.
They are not all Jewish, and they have more money than they know what to do with. Why then would luminaries like these engage in spiritual studies of what was once a very arcane field?
Actors and actresses are human. They work in an extremely competitive field. Hollywood is notorious for sucking up and spitting out talent. Precious few of them actually make it to the top. The fortunate few who do, the ones who have the means to do anything they want, soon find that there is more to life than conspicuous consumption. The more creative among them are hungry for something real.
Kabbalah is a mystical form of Judaism drawn from the second century after Christ in the very region where He lived and breathed, Galilee, started by Rav Shimon bar Yochai, who spoke Aramaic. It came to life as a major discipline in Andalusian Spain, where Islamic, Christian and Jewish scholars all studied together in somewhat of a golden age.
Isaac Luria, in Safed, Israel made the Zohar, or Book of Splendor, famous among Jewish people. It focused on interpreting the five books of Moses, the Torah, from a higher perspective, focusing on the Creation Story of the first chapter of Genesis, as well as the Burning Bush and the Parting of the Red Sea in the book of Exodus.
Kabbalah introduced four levels of interpretation, which brought great depth to the sacred texts:
1. Literal translation.
2. Allegoric translation.
3. Moral translation.
4. Inner translation.
Gone was an angry god on a throne high above the clouds throwing thunderbolts down on all of us. Enter a God of Infinite Light, which equates to Life, as well as Love. It sees the entire Universe in terms of Light.
The 20th Century witnessed the rebirth of the nation of Israel. It had been nearly 2,000 years since the Romans tore down Jerusalem, the Sacred City, and the Temple of King Herod. The language of Hebrew was revived, and many ancient texts were translated into Modern Hebrew, including the Aramaic texts of Kabbalah.
With the paperback revolution and online publishing, thanks to the World Wide Web, it was vastly easier to disseminate all kinds of knowledge, including the most sophisticated wisdom of Judaism. Traditionally, you had to be a married, male Jew over 40, who would privately go to a Rav, or Kabbalist teacher, either individually or in small groups for study.
After the cultural and social revolution of the 1960’s, and the emergence of the Baby Boomers, it no longer made sense to restrict the Kabbalah. Philip and Karen Berg started a center in Los Angeles that eventually went round the world. Under Karen’s influence, Philip opened up Kabbalah to women and children, as well as people of any race, nation or religion. You could be a Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or Humanist. They didn’t care. All were welcome to join them in studying Kabbalah.
Kabbalah explains the nature of creation, the Universe and humanity. Ultimately, there is only the Light, another word for Being, Consciousness and Bliss. Our Source poured Itself into human vessels, which got shattered. Although every one of us has an original spark of the divine, we all must find ourselves.
We are only fulfilled when we share that Light with others, and give of what we have. Greed is inherently self-defeating, as our greatest joy is to make others happy. We can beautify ourselves by bringing out the spark of divinity. Every time we resist the temptation to be petty and mean, we generate more light, which makes it easier for all the rest of us.
We each consciously chose to enter the game of life under a specific set of conditions. We even chose our parents, our bodies and our community. We each have a thorn in the flesh, a perceived limitation that can curtail our lives if we are unconscious. It is in overcoming our negative predispositions that we become truly great.
Most Christians have been taught to give to their church, and a few practice giving a tenth of their income to God. It is counterintuitive that John D. Rockefeller, who built the oil industry, was a scrupulous tither, or that Bill Gates, one of the richest men in the world, memorized the Sermon on the Mount and made a pledge with his wife, Melinda, to give away all his money.
The concept of the Tithe, meaning tenth, came from ancient Israel before there were income and state taxes. Hebrews supported a class of religious leaders, the Levites, who would keep their faith forever alive. The idea was to support those who enlighten you. Jewish civilization has always placed a high value on education, which may partially explain the spectacular success of many Jewish people.
Counter to many stereotypes, Jewish people are often amazing philanthropists who accumulate money primarily so that they can give it away to worthy causes. If you doubt this, just go to New York. Particularly noteworthy are the endless contributions to education and the arts. Liberalism in America would be meaningless were it not for the hundreds of thousands of Jewish people who lived out its values over the decades.
With climate change, religious terrorism and nuclear proliferation, the world, more than ever before, needs healing. Kabbalah gives a clear explanation as to how things got this way, as well as offering a positive direction forward.
Karen Berg, for example, has been extremely active in the interfaith movement. Even though Jewish, she has spent much time with Muslim leaders. For example, Karen has spoken with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian National Authority and Dr. Jehan Sadat, President Anwar Sadat’s widow.
Many Kabbalists have intractable faith in the power of truth and love. It is deeply moving to see Jews, who, after the Holocaust, chose to share their faith with the entire world and love the very people who destroyed their ancestors. These people are, indeed, paving the way to a universal faith.
In the U.S., you will find many Jewish Community Centers that can be helpful in referring you to a study group. Many videos are freely available on YouTube, including Secrets of Kabbalah.
The Kabbalah Centre offers many online and offline resources, including both books and videos.
The most useful resource to get started would be to read cover to cover, Yehuda Berg’s The Power of Kabbalah. Yehuda, as well as his brother, Michael, are extremely gifted at making the most abstruse concepts in this tradition instantly accessible and applicable to people’s personal lives. Encountering his work really opened me up.
Strangely enough, cutting-edge physicists brilliantly illustrate many concepts of Kabbalah. You might try Fred Alan Wolf, Amit Goswami or Brian Greene. You won’t be disappointed with Brian Greene’s exquisite video, Elegant Universe.
You will find that Light is the perfect metaphor for Who we all are and What this is all about.