My path into Kabbalah

A journey that began on the tube and went around the world allowed the author to let go of his corpo

I think it was the Northern line on London's Underground in 1995 that finally got me!

Depression by osmosis – the misery on people’s faces each and every morning finally made me want to believe there must be more to life than Investment Banking.

So, one Sunday night, sitting in my St John’s Wood local, I made a drunkard pact with a friend to quit the investment bank the following morning, jump on a plane and go explore the world VIP-backpacker style!

Through Hong Kong, I continued to Indonesia. I stepped out of Jakarta Airport into a tropical downpour, where three Indonesian children ran out into the rain with arms outstretched, laughing, kicking and stomping with joy. I remember that scene well – it still smacks me when I need a wake-up call in life. The idea that these kids – with nothing in life – all of sudden seemed to have everything I wanted – a pure ecstasy of life.

I got out of my mood and resolved to experience as much as I could on this trip of a lifetime. Each subsequent destination offered me more amazing adventures: skydiving from 11,000 feet (clouds are at 2000 ft they tell me!); dodging sharks in the waters of the Australia; getting legally ‘high’ with a governor in Fiji; 48-hour parties in L.A and celebrating my newly born nephew in Sweden.

After travelling some 20,000 miles and experiencing as much as I possibly could, I returned to London to start afresh – just anything not to fall back into an another city-job rut.

Sure enough within a month, I was back in the ‘city job rut’ and craving change. Solution – run away to another holiday please!

So it was that summer, during a holiday in Israel, I caught one clear word over a muffled conversation my oldest and dearest friend Marc held a with a stranger – ‘Kabbalah’.

Back in London I began to ask questions about Kabbalah: what was it, who was it?

I wasn’t sure what to expect – why was it so controversial? Was it a religion? No religion had never really made sense to me. Didn’t you have to be academic? A wealthy celebrity? Over 40? Fortunate for me Marc returned on fire after the lecture bubbling with energy saying ‘you gotta hear this stuff’.

Despite my innate cynicism, there was something extraordinary about the first class. Over time, the whole controversy of Kabbalah became myth – the 4,000 year old wisdom of Kabbalah just explained how life works and how, through change and hard work, each of us can learn to take back control over our lives and live more meaningfully. I had done many self help courses but Kabbalah was unique in its depth.

Over the course of the next three years, I opened a headhunting and recruitment consultancy for the banking industry with a great friend and successfully applied my Kabbalistic and his Hindu principles, creating a very exciting business.

Because of Kabbalah I felt a change ripple through my relationships, business and health. I became excited about waking up in the mornings seeing life through different goggles and saw how I could help others in a major way too.

All my questions about the contradictions of life finally were answered

It was a very tough decision but I eventually decided I could give much more back to my community by learning to teach what I had been taught. So after much soul searching I left the business and went to study full-time with Rav Berg in America.

It first fascinated me that the Kabbalah Centre is the continuation of a 4000 year lineage pure to its original teachings with many parts made practical to allow all to see how personal strength and social responsibility can remove a lot of pain and suffering from people’s lives. I was melted by the pure intentions and love of this Kabbalist and his ‘show, don’t tell’ manner.

And from this I learnt the point of the Kabbalah Centre charity – first to provide people of all religious, ethnic, and economic backgrounds with a variety of educational resources (i.e. seminars, online study, books newsletters, one-on-one consultation, and special events) that aim to inspire students to become proactive members of their communities and the world. And second, it created several charitable programs that provide direct physical assistance for people living in impoverished conditions; crime prevention programs to prison inmates and juvenile delinquents; and peace-building programs for children and adults.

Marc and I have now been studying at Kabbalah Centre for nine years and teaching for five of them. Whether its royalty, celebrities or us lay folk – everyone but everyone is looking for the same fulfilment out of life, and like gravity, the Universe treats us all identically – we’re all playing the same game of life to get the same high from life, and I had finally found the life manual!

Thank you, London Underground!

Marcus a student of Kabbalist Rav Berg is one of the leading teachers at the Kabbalah Centre London. He currently spearheads many European and African charitable projects, and coaches individuals and companies to achieve lasting success and balance.
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Russian pools, despatches from the Pole, and disagreeing with my son Boris on Brexit

My week, from Moscow to Westminster Hour.

With the weather in Moscow last week warm, if not balmy, I thought about taking a dip in the vast heated open-air swimming pool that I remembered from a previous visit. My Russian host shook his head. “That would have been the great Moskva Pool. Stalin actually tore down the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour to make way for it. But, after perestroika, they filled in the pool and rebuilt the church!” So I didn’t have my open-air swim, though I did visit the cathedral instead.

In the evening, spiritually if not physically refreshed, I addressed a gathering of Russian businessmen and bankers who were keen to learn what impact Brexit might have on the London property and investment scene, the UK being a prime destination for their money. We met in the old Ukraina Hotel, now splendidly refurbished and relaunched as the Radisson Royal, Moscow. A Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith was parked in the foyer, a snip at £150,000. “There is a great democratic debate going on in Britain at the moment,” I told my audience. “The issues are finely balanced. I’m for staying in. But on 23 June, the British people, not the politicians, not the tycoons, nor the lobbyists, will decide.”

I noted some uneasy laughter at this point. Russia’s fledgling democracy probably still has some way to go before matters of such moment are left to the people.

 

Culture club

I spent the next afternoon in the Tretyakov Gallery. A rich businessman, Pavel Tretyakov, collected thousands of items of Russian art (mainly icons and paintings) and donated both them and his magnificent house to the state in 1892. Over time, the state has added many more artefacts, including some from the vast storerooms of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.

My guide, Tatiana Gubanova, a senior curator, had recently organised the loan of several items from the Tretyakov to London’s National Portrait Gallery, where they are currently still on display in the splendid “Russia and the Arts” exhibition. She said that she was looking forward to returning to London next year: “The Royal Academy is planning a special exhibition to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.” Whatever happens at the political level, it is good to know that our cultural links with Russia are still flourishing.

 

Heading south

Just before I left for Moscow, I attended ­Adrian Camrose’s funeral in St Bride’s Church, off Fleet Street. The scion of a great newspaper family, Adrian made his mark as the Daily Telegraph’s science correspondent.

In early 1984, I went to Antarctica with him. We shared a cabin on a British Antarctic Survey ship while it visited research ­stations “down south”. I was writing a book on Antarctica, subtitled “the Last Great Wilderness”, while Adrian sent a series of crisp despatches to the Telegraph via the ship’s radio-telex. Adrian’s dateline was “On board the John Biscoe, Antarctica”. Distant galaxies were Adrian’s consuming passion. I am sure he is filing stories from the spaceship Spacey McSpaceFace even as I write.

 

Green surge

As co-chairman with Baroness (Barbara) Young of Environmentalists for Europe, my life has been fairly hectic recently. I am sure it will get more so as the referendum day approaches. I know perfectly well that one of the reasons the invitations to speak or write articles ping into my inbox is the titillation factor. Are Families Divided on the Referendum? Is “Boris’s Dad” (that’s me!) going to Disagree with Boris?

Notwithstanding the family relationship, which I deeply treasure, the answer is “yes”. I am going to disagree. Boris and Michael Gove and other key members of the Brexit team have injected a wonderful level of vigour and energy into the referendum debate. They have raised issues, besides the economy, which needed to be discussed, particularly sovereignty, immigration and the EU’s general direction of travel. For this, the nation owes them a debt of gratitude. That said, I am convinced that this is not the moment to call time on the UK’s membership of the EU. As I see it, the best way to address the obvious problems is not to leave the EU but to “Remain” and to fight for change from within. In the end, this will benefit not just the UK but Europe as a whole.

 

Quiet no more

Last Sunday evening, I took part in the BBC Radio 4 programme Westminster Hour. My fellow panellists were the former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith and Baroness Smith of Basildon, formerly Angela Smith MP, now the shadow leader of the House of Lords.

We had a very lively and sometimes rowdy discussion. IDS is the “quiet man” who, since his resignation from the cabinet a couple of months ago, has regained his voice in no uncertain terms. Baroness Smith, a delightfully unpushy lady, sometimes found it difficult to get a word in edgeways. I don’t think I did so well myself.

But I did, I hope, make it clear that, from my point of view, there was still time to build on all that was good in the EU (such as its environmental record), while seeking common rather than unilateral solutions for the problems that persist.

On 24 June, if the Remain side wins, the government should go into action in Europe with all cylinders firing and with our politicians and diplomats working overtime, to get the arrangements that we need and deserve. On the way out, IDS said to me, “It won’t work. They won’t have it.”

He may be right. But I still think we should give it a go. You don’t file for divorce as a result of a single tiff, not after more than 40 years of marriage.

On the issues of immigration, for example, and possible changes to the EU’s freedom of movement rules, we may find more allies in Europe than we think.

Stanley Johnson is co-chairman of Environmentalists for Europe: environmentalistsforeurope.org

Stanley Johnson is an author, journalist and former Conservative member of the European Parliament. He has also worked in the European Commission. In 1984 Stanley was awarded the Greenpeace Prize for Outstanding Services to the Environment and in the same year the RSPCA Richard Martin award for services to animal welfare. In 1962 he won the Newdigate Prize for Poetry. He also happens to be the father of Boris Johnson.

This article first appeared in the 26 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit odd squad