Beni Baruch kabbalah update
Date: April 03, 2008 09:38AM
I am/was a student at the Bnei Baruch online Kabbalah education centre. I have only been there for a few weeks. I've always considered myself a fairly intelligent, but open minded and stable person but with the commopn defect of always searching for something. Suddenly it seems that I have possibly started to induct myself into a cult (see thread 'bnei baruch anyone?). I think alot of what is written in that thread is way off the mark, but some of it raises questions and some of it seems to be uncomfortably near the truth.
Just a quick story- Just last week on the ARI online forum people have started getting articles that are critical of BB. The one I got is from the katot site and was written by former BB member Jaim who has contributed towards discussions on this forum and has been verified as a genuine source. One forum member recently started a post screaming about how BB is connected with zionism, that Laitman endorses the mass murder of Arabs etc etc etc. The Hatzla programme in Kfar Sitrin was mentioned..the programme that connects kabbalah to zionism and orthodox Judaism and that was purportedly going to close down a school to make way for it.
This is instructor Tony Kosinec's response:
OK everyone calm down.
That program never happened and it doesn't exist.. frankly I have no idea why that link still exists on the web (you will find its now been removed). Here is the story. There is a program run jointly by aspects of the Jewish community in North America with support from the Israeli government. It brings high school kids to Israel for what they call a "Birthright" experience. All of these programs supply accommodation and supervision for the summer and those are hard costs that across the board are about 9K for anyone involved in any other these programs run by any organization. This is just the logistical necessity.
At BB we discussed we started investigating a program of dissemination to allow North American kids to come and learn Kabbalah in the summer instead of wasting their time running around going to kibbutzes and religious programs that will nothing to help humanity. Now, there are certain requirements that must be met before such a program can receive approval. The Israeli government won't give it the stamp of approval and US communities won't consider an offering unless the program is couched in a certain way... That doesn't mean we have anything to do with Zionism or religion - or that there is one cent of profit involved in that idea... which, by the way, we ended up rejecting for the very reasons you all find it unacceptable.. we felt the same and never went forward with it.
Which is interesting because that kind of links up with Jaim's comments that Bnei Baruch will change its image to fit whoever it is trying to convince- orthodox/secular etc.
Maybe I shouldn't have done this but something prompted me to test the instructor's responses to a few pointed questions. here it is with instructor Mike Kellog's anwsers:
1. Would it be correct to say that, when we get down to it, Bnei Baruch is not a 'democratic' organisation. By this I mean that it truly asserts that to save humanity a 'totalist state' will have to be instiagted by a ruling group of wise kabbalists. And that the initial stages of that totalist state are now being gestated. (no need to get into a political argument about the values/otherwise of democracy or the spiritual interpretation of this- just is this basically the case?)
This could not be further from the truth. In point of fact, Bnei Baruch is a group dedicated only to spiritual advancement, meaning to learn to love thy neighbor as thy self, where when a decision is made of any kind, the group as a whole must come to total agreement. It is unlike anything you can even imagine here as nothing like it exists. Humanity will be saved only when all of humanity has switched from operating under the program of "greatest amount of pleasure with least amount of work" to "if I cannot use a desire to bestow, I dont fulfill it". In other words, humanity will be saved when it understands its salvation is dependent on accepting "love thy neighbor as thy self". The group is not a political organization in any way. Its sole purpose is the dissemination of the wisdom of Kabbalah to the world. The world must elect to save itself, the group cannot do that.
2. Is Rav Laitman subject to any kind of organisational, commitee restraint or is he essentially unacountable?
Rav Laitman is the Rav, meaning the teacher. His job is not organizational in any way. The group makes its decisions based solely on their agreement. Rav does not interfere in the group's work.
2. Can the instructors in America say they are 100% certain of exactly what is going on in BB Israel?
The instructors here are all members of BB and as such in constant communication with BB.
3. Are there any transparent financial records for the activities of Bnei Baruch (preferably independantly audited?) that I can see?
I believe so, but why? We provide everything to you for free. (this IS true but BB maaser (10% income contribution) site also claims: All those who wish to advance spiritually must pay maaser. But online students are not asked to do this) Exactly what are you wanting to see and for what purpose? I understand where you are going and trying to test for "cult like" status, but such requests are generally made to determine where money that one is asked to send in goes. We ask for nothing from those we teach. Our goals are not to make people somehow feel comfortable with their opinions of how things are run at Bnei Baruch, but only toward our student's spiritual advancement. Everything we do is at a cost basis. For instance, we just had a mini-congress in St Louis. That congress was held at one of the nicest hotels in St Louis, 3 days and 2 nights, outststanding food, and all for a whopping $200 per person. You are thinking we really cleaned up on that one? And yes, every single aspect of that congress was determined by the group members who came to agreement on the agenda, which also changed in order to meet the needs of those who attended right in the middle of the congress.
4. Do a large, and key part of Bal Hasulam's writtings remain untranslated/kept from public disclosure and is it true that he prohibited his works to be translated and (in the book Or Habair)commented that it was very dangerous to teach kabbalah to the 'masses' without certain precautions?
No, the works of Baal HaSulam and Rabash are pretty much all there, but not all in English. But there is nothing sinister in this lack of translation. We simply do not have the man power to translate every single thing all at once, but we are getting there. But this is not about trying to please someone with questions. Our efforts are based on the needs of our students to advance spiritually, not some wierd justification for those screaming "your hiding something".
3. Is it true that the word machsom (the barrier), as used in Bnei Baruch does not exist in any kabbalistic writtings?..That it was invented?
No. I assume you want an example. The article "breaking the Iron Wall" by Baal HaSulam. Oh, and even the Iron Wall in the title is referring to machsom. This point seems to be correct and also, whilst I have no way of really knowing there are several articles apparently by Bal hasulam which talk explicitly about disclosing kabbalah to the public (ie time to act)
5. Does one eventually begin to disconnect from friends and familly (even if it is 'voluntarily') as one has to devote more and more time to dissemination and late night study? (because if you don't then you won't progress spiritually)
To the contrary, for those who take up this goal, actually become true students instead of curiosity seekers, we strongly encourage people to seperate their corporeal lives from their spiritual endevours. One should not change anything in their life. They must meet their family and financial obligations. There are circumstances in the past that have arisen when a student has not followed these guidelines and we have asked them to stop studying and get their act together. Then they can begin studying again.
Finally, this organization is not about changing the corporeal world. It is about one and only one goal. That goal is the aquisition of the ability to do what the Creator does, to make a selfless act - to bestow. If you are looking for some "save humanity" or "political" organization that you can agree with and perform all sorts of functions trying to improve this world, this is not it. The goals here are purely spiritual and you will be sadly disappointed.
Here you will find only the desire to learn to love, as defined by Kabbalists, not by psychologists. That goal requires one to investigate how much they love their self (which is all encompassing), and compare that with how they love others (which is always for self benefit). If you are looking for fulfillment of corporeal desires such as: food, shelter, family problems, money, honor, knowledge, power, etc., again this is not the place.
Bnei Baruch deals with only one single desire, the desire to learn to bestow - also known as the soul. All of your concerns are with regard to this world and have nothing to do with this desire. Investigate why you are here. What is your purpose here. What are you trying to accomplish. Only in the comparison of one's goals with the environment of the group they are curious about can they determine if that environment is correct for them.
Since some people on here seem knowledgeable about these issues I would value an opinion on Kellog's answers- from the point of view of patterns of obfucation or evasion. It seems that without learning hebrew i'm never going to get to the bottom of all this and I could easily spend the rest of my life researching it so any help appreciated. I would prefer it if people who simply have developed a grudge against BB would not just give me their opinion though i'm obviously not in a position to demand anything.
A final point on this long post. The student who made the initial outburst was not actually expelled from the online group. IN fact they seem to have interpreted their own behaviour as a 'descent'- a state of confusion and doubt which is followed by an ascent. They are now back and singing the praises the group and Bnei Baruch. (Log into www.arionline.info to see everything on there right now). Here is Mike Kellog's response to that poster:
This will not be the last descent you will experience, but now you have a wonderful tool...experience. That means you now can recognize what has happened and overcome it much faster. L'chaim to you for moving past this first obstacle. It is a sign of your growth.
I admit, having looked at some contradictory opinions of BB I now find that response a little disturbing. It was not a 'descent'. A guy read some dammning info about BB, went a bit mad and then decided that his behaviour was a 'descent' which is immediately endorsed by the instructors...hmmm. What is also worrying me (because I strated to observe this in myself) is that the claim that BB is the ONLY place one can hope to attain true spirituality makes alot of people afraid of loosing out and therefore motivated to suppress their doubts- or interpret them as part of the path. And of course the BB stance on all this is that my ego is terrified of re-establishing its connections and it starts to 'freak out' and is trying to find all sorts of excuses to stop the proccess, that i'll and that i'll be back eventually because i'll realise I need this wisdom.
I don't really know who's right but its left enough of a bad taste in my mouth that i'm not able to sweep it under the carpet like some of my fellow students. I think it might be an exageration to say BB is a cult but, as Rick Ross say, it is a problematic organisation.