The Kabbalah Centre opens the teachings up to the masses, marketing them as a “universal system for self-improvement.” The 10-week courses on offer aim to teach students how to achieve their goals through the most direct routes, which means improving business performance has come to be seen as a secondary effect of study.
Although it claims to be a non-profit organisation, the movement has come under fire, especially among Orthodox Jews, for being primarily a money-making scheme.
“The so-called ‘Kabbalah Centre’...seems to be more concerned with retail sales and protecting its market share than spirituality,” U.S. cult expert Rick Ross says.
At face value, the Moscow centre certainly seems to have more in common with a business than a spiritual institution. Books and various other trinkets on display for sale include: “The Power of You” (600 roubles), “72 Names of God” cards (760 roubles), red-string bracelet (500 roubles), 23-volume Zohar text (12,500 roubles). The centre’s website, located at [www.kabbalah.ru
], also lists a range of products, although prices are not available.
Although Mats insists that the center attracts a wide range of students from a variety of backgrounds, there are some telling signs that the movement is especially popular among the capital’s ultra rich. The centre will soon begin holding courses in English for Moscow’s high-earning expat community and also plans to hold lectures at Rublyovka, a residential area west of Moscow which boasts some of the highest residential prices in the world.
Numerous Russian celebrities are also rumoured to have links with the organisation, according to the Russian media. Big names include singer-cum-actress Lolita Milyavskaya, musician Stas Namin and Armenian-Bulgarian pop singer Philipp Kirkorov.
“Being a Kabbalah member is seen by many a sign of affluence and glamour,” Russian anti-cult activist Alexander Dvorkin says. “A lot of people swallow the bait out of vanity to show that they have reached a certain level of achievement or success. They want to show that they make enough money to be a member.”