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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Winning Scottish independence will be even harder than before - but it may be the only choice

Independence campaigners will have to find answers on borders, currency and more. 

The Brexit mutiny has taken not just the UK economy and its relationship with Europe into uncharted waters. it has also imperilled the union between Scotland and England. From Sir John Major to the First Minister, both Unionists and Nationalists had warned of it. The outcome, though, has made this certain. The Leave vote in England and Wales contrasted with an overwhelming Remain vote north of the border.

That every region in Scotland voted to stay In was quite remarkable. Historically, fishing and industrial communities have blamed the European Union for their woes. That antagonism was probably reflected in lower turnout - an abstention rather than a rejection. 

The talk now is of a second referendum on independence. This is understandable given the current mood. Opinion polls in the Sunday Times and Sunday Post showed a Yes vote now at 52 per cent and 59 per cent respectively. Moreover, anecdotal evidence suggests even arch No vote campaigners, from JK Rowling to the Daily Record, are considering the option.

The First Minister was therefore correct to say that a second referendum is now “back on the table”. Her core supporters expects no less. However, as with the economy and Europe, the constitutional relationship between Scotland and England is now in uncharted seas. Potential support for independence may be higher, but the challenges are arguably bigger than before. The difficulties are practical, political and geographic.

Of course the Little Englanders likely to take the helm may choose a velvet divorce. However, given their desire for the return of the Glories of Britannia that’s improbable. They’re as likely to wish to see Caledonia depart, as cede Gibraltar to Spain, even though that territory voted even more overwhelmingly In.

Ticking the legal boxes

Practically, there’s the obstacle of obtaining a legal and binding referendum. The past vote was based on the Edinburgh Agreement and legislation in Westminster and Holyrood. The First Minister has indicated the democratic arguments of the rights of the Scots. However, that’s unlikely to hold much sway. A right-wing centralist Spanish government has been willing to face down demands for autonomy in Catalonia. Would the newly-emboldened Great Britain be any different?

There are no doubt ways in which democratic public support can be sought. The Scottish Government may win backing in Holyrood from the Greens. However, consent for such action would need to be obtained from the Presiding Officer and the Lord Advocate, both of whom have a key role in legislation. These office holders have changed since the first referendum, where they were both more sympathetic and the legal basis clearer. 

Getting the EU on side

The political hurdles are, also, greater this time than before. Previously the arguments were over how and when Scotland could join the EU, although all accepted ultimately she could remain or become a member. This time the demand is that Scotland should remain and the rest of the UK can depart. But will that be possible? The political earthquake that erupted south of the Border has set tectonic plates shifting, not just in the British isles but across the European continent. The fear that a Brexit would empower dark forces in the EU may come to pass. Will the EU that the UK is about to leave be there for an independent Scotland to join? We cannot know, whatever European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker may be saying at the moment. The First Minister is right to start engaging with Europe directly. But events such as elections in France and the Netherlands are outwith her control. 

Moreover, currency was the Achilles heel in the last referendum, and hasn’t yet been addressed. George Osborne was adamant in his rejection of a currency union. The options this time round, whether a separate Scottish currency or joining the euro, have yet to be properly explored. A worsened financial situation in the 27 remaining EU members hampers the latter and the former remains politically problematic. 

The problem of borders

Geography is also an obstacle  that will be even harder to address now than before. Scotland can change its constitution, but it cannot alter its location on a shared island. In 2014, the independence argument was simply about changing the political union. Other unions, whether monarchy or social, would remain untouched. The island would remain seamless, without border posts. An independent Scotland, whether in or out of the EU, would almost certainly have to face these issues. That is a significant change from before, and the effect on public opinion unknown.

The risk that's worth it

Ultimately, the bar for a Yes vote may be higher, but the Scots may still be prepared to jump it. As with Ireland in 1920, facing any risk may be better than remaining in the British realm. Boris Johnson as Prime Minister would certainly encourage that. 

David Cameron's lack of sensitivity after the independence referendum fuelled the Scottish National Party surge. But perhaps this time, the new Government will be magnanimous towards Scotland and move to federalism. The Nordic Union offers an example to be explored. Left-wing commentators have called for a progressive alliance to remove the Tories and offer a multi-option referendum on Scotland’s constitution. But that is dependent on SNP and Labour being prepared to work together, and win the debate in England and Wales.

So, Indy Ref The Sequel is on the table. It won’t be the same as the first, and it will be more challenging. But, if there is no plausible alternative, Scots may consider it the only option.

Kenny MacAskill served as a Scottish National MSP between 2007 and 2016, and as Cabinet Secretary for Justice between 2007 and 2014.