Madonna and Ashton Kutcher led the way, but the spiritual wisdom of Kabbalah appeals to people from all walks of life. Marcus Weston, lead teacher at the London Kabbalah Centre explains why the faith can help you get more out of life
What is Kabbalah?
Kabbalah is a spiritual teaching – not a religious one – which allows it to sit alongside any faith, or none at all. It’s a practical system of ideas and insights designed to help individuals gain more from life. It teaches students to harness their full potential, feel more in control, realise the best version of themselves, reach a broader understanding of how life, business and relationships work.
How do you define the differences between religion and spirituality?
There are many differences, and increasingly people identify themselves as spiritual but not religious. After seeing the phenomenal growth in attendance at the London Kabbalah Centre, I think that – right now, especially – spirituality is something people are actively choosing and exploring for themselves.
I also think, unlike religious conformity, a spiritual path is the cause of discovery and individuality, where what’s good for me will likely be different to what’s good for you. Maybe the best way to summarise it, is the first thing my teacher ever told me, “Don’t believe a word I ever tell you – there’s plenty of belief systems already in the world. But if you wish, be open to see the outcomes of your efforts, to see if it’s true for you.”
What’s behind the Kabbalah boom?
There’s been a snowball effect of people telling people and we’re seeing unprecedented growth with the need to open an extension to our West End building which will almost double the size of the centre. The rewarding thing is that when many of us started studying 15 years ago, there really was just a handful of us. So the fact that we now see 1,000 students a week is testament to how much the classes and studies have helped so many people.
Why has Kabbalah attracted so many A-list celebrities?
Many wrongly associate Kabbalah as a ‘fad’, as opposed to 4,000 years of social importance. Celebrity members represent a small percentage but naturally, because of their profile, their spiritual commitments get written about.
I find the celebrity ‘thing’ intriguing, as people imagine fame and fortune to be a fairy tale. The truth is with great power comes responsibility, and its trappings are tough to handle, often leading to destructive behaviour.
In a Kabbalah centre they get a life reality check. They’re given the chance to discover a new strength from within. Where many celebrities can become naturally dependent upon how others love, recognise, approve and ‘buy’ into them, life becomes very fickle. The façade of external factors fulfilling us leaves a lot missing, losing sight of what life’s really about. Kabbalah teaches us that fulfilment is found internally, and the path that we create for celebrities, nurses, teachers and CEOs alike, awakens a deep process where fulfilment is because of me.
What’s the difference between Kabbalah and organised religions?
Kabbalah is not an organised religion, but its roots became the spiritual foundation for what became Judaism, then Christianity and then Islam. The first book on Kabbalah was written by Abraham 4,000 years ago, called the Book of Formation. In this, he reveals secrets of how the universe and life works and provides practical tools for creating joy and fulfilment, the original instruction manual for life. Hence why if Moses, Jesus and Mohammed lived in the same generation they would get on famously. So the universal, spiritual foundation, assimilated into various organised religions, is Kabbalah.
How can you become a member?
There is nothing to convert to. Kabbalah, meaning ‘to receive’, teaches us to receive lasting fulfilment from observing how our words, thoughts and actions plant seeds that create life outcomes – learning to take more responsibility changes these for the better. We teach Kabbalah to create a better world.
What’s your role at the center?
I wear five hats. Primarily I’m a student. Secondly, I teach classes on health and healing, relationships, business and leadership, astrology, reincarnation, meditation and ancient Kabbalistic literatures. Thirdly, I mentor business leaders, politicians, royalty, celebrities and sports professionals around the world. I meet my 72 ‘students’ once a fortnight to support and empower them in areas of their lives. Fourthly, I’m passionate about many social impact projects we undertake and, finally, the Kabbalah Centre is a registered charity so, as a trustee, I help ensure its integrity and efficiency.
You left your job as an investment banker to travel the world before finding Kabbalah. Tell us about your journey.
I was in New York days after 9/11, feeling the shock, terror and senselessness of the week’s events. At the time I was running various business interests in London and had been studying Kabbalah at the London Kabbalah Centre for three years.
With all my education, work and corporate experience I kept hitting business walls. My work mentors, industry peers and mastermind groups couldn’t seem to help me break through these. But again and again I would see my spiritual work internalise the problem and I saw a particular change inside of me that the situation elicited. I would work to change that self-sabotaging belief, attitude or behaviour and watch the business issue, mirroring my change internally, change in synch externally. This fascinated and truly excited me. I began to see that the best way of changing every branch of my life was in my internal spiritual work on myself. Beyond coincidence these personal changes were perfectly creating my success and fulfilment.
I was really hit by 9/11. I sunk into a state releasing how amazing and beautiful life is, and how we as a population can so easily ‘muck’ the whole thing up. So I thought the only way you change the world is one person at a time, and you start with yourself. That was my moment. I returned to London and over weeks sat painfully with my business partner to explain my dilemma,
guilt and determination. Lovingly he understood and the rest as you say is history. I’ve never looked back.
Every day, I work harder and harder with more people to give them a taste of what I have received, and a taste of 4,000 years of spiritual giants’ work to lift the consciousness of humanity and empower people from every walk to life, to remove this world from sheer chaos, pain and suffering. Whenever I feel it’s too tough, I draw strength from this moment, my choice, my change of life. And that everything, however chaotic, can change in the blink of an eye.
What’s the most exciting milestone you’ve experienced since?
Marriage. It wasn’t obvious to me how I was ever built for marriage and true partnership.
I was always was extremely independent and determined (my wife would say ‘blinkered’) in my ambition for success. At the expense of everything else. And, more often than not, everyone else. Indeed I left getting married until quite late in my life. But it wasn’t the fact I got married that was the most exciting moment. It was the fact that my personal work within the Kabbalah Centre opened my heart to such a place where I genuinely loved. I began to love. To feel. To feel things outside of myself, not just of myself. This really was for me a new and much greater world. Ironically it also realised and delivered more of the very success that I craved too.
Tell us about the development plans for the London Kabbalah Centre expansion.
It’s very exciting, not just to see a greater student base, but to feel a greater consciousness flow out of the centre into more business boardrooms, government corridors and family living rooms, adding a bit more depth and awareness to the seeds we’re planting for our own future and how we treat others.
Excitingly too, in this expanded space, we’re launching a major new initiative called ‘Tipping Points’, an exclusive lecture series that introduces leaders from the arts, sciences, politics and business.
Each lecture explores the individual speaker’s field of expertise in relation to our ever-changing world, and challenges the audiences to consider if what we do next, matters. We’ve had some extraordinary speakers at the London Kabbalah Centre already, including fashion designer Donna Karan, Lord Young and Shaun Edwards, and many equally impressive and interesting speakers are already scheduled for an exciting 2015. Many people from all walks of life are intrigued by what these speakers have to say, and find this the perfect entry point.
There’s an old Kabbalah phrase saying, ‘Consciousness is everything’. As greater numbers of people continue to marry consciousness into their relationships, work ethics and wellness, we’ll be well geared and lovingly ready to support them.
To find out more, watch the Kabbalah Centre’s video at www.kabbalahcentre.co.uk