Becoming Like God - Michael Berg
"Right now, this minute, as you read these words, you're either heading for eternal life or you're committing suicide...God exists. And he would never consign the human race to endless suffering and unavoidable death. Union with God is possible, and its consequence is never-ending joy and the removal of death. God does not suffer and die; therefore, we don't need to suffer and die." --Michael Berg in Becoming Like God - Kabbalah And Our Ultimate Destiny

It seems that everywhere I turn anymore, I see the Kabbalah. Or Cabala. Or Qabalah. Or...well, you get my drift. A recent skit on Saturday Night Live featured a fake quote by Madonna where all she said was "Kabbalah, Kabbalah, Kabbalah"--a reference to the pop star's interest in this mystical off-shoot of Judaism. Her pilgrimage to Israel made the news, and People magazine recently featured a small piece on the party that she and Demi Moore threw in London for Kabbalistic Rabbi Michael Berg. Gwyneth Paltrow was in attendance, as were other luminaries like Guy Ritchie, Valentino, and Versace.

What were they all celebrating at this posh party? The release of Berg's book Becoming Like God - Kabbalah And Our Ultimate Destiny. Michael Berg is the director of The Kabbalah Centre, and has achieved the amazing feat of translating the 23 volume Zohar from the Aramaic into English--all by the age of 28. (He began the translation at age 18.) The Zohar is the foundation of the Kabbalah, and according to Kabbalistic teachers like Berg, is not a book of religion but of ancient technology--a technology so powerful that it can end death itself.

I've tried to read books on the Kabbalah before, but I usually give up early in the game--bored to tears by Hebrew words that I don't understand and a Tree of Life that's never really explained in lucid terms. When I received a copy of Becoming Like God, I thought that perhaps this would be the facile version of this ancient mystical tradition that would finally hold some relevance.

An easy-to-read book that's peppered with quotes in hot-pink, all-caps script--there is nary a mention of the Tree of Life, Kether, Malkuth, Binah, Chesed or any of the usual Kabbalistic buzz-words. One of the fuschia quotes in this book is FOCUS AND CLARITY ARE THE OPPONENT'S MORTAL ENEMIES. WE MUST FIGHT FOR CLARITY EVERY MOMENT: CLARITY ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF CLARITY, CLARITY THAT WE'RE IN A PRISON, CLARITY THAT THERE'S A GOD FORMULA TO BE APPLIED, CLARITY THAT WE'RE DESTINED TO BE LIKE GOD. (Forgive me for cyber-shouting, but this is an example of how these quotes look in the book.)

With all this talk about clarity...well, you'd think the book would be more clear. Instead, there is mention of an Opponent who's a "he"; I thought for sure he'd be unmasked as Satan himself at the end of the book, but instead, this nebulous Opponent's name is Why do you ask my name? (no lie)--as well as the desire to receive for self alone. What isn't explained is exactly what ego is within the context of the Zohar or the Kabbalah. Rather, Berg tries to convince us that we're all in a prison, that this Opponent is prison guard, that life must be a constant struggle of ruthlessness against this hated Opponent and that we must be ever-vigilant in the battle to become like God.

There is much talk in Becoming Like God about evil versus good, deception versus truth, and life versus death. Some concepts I totally agree with and "get": that the illusion of separation causes needless suffering, that the ego is crafty and seeks to keep us isolated, that we were made in the image of God and are ever-evolving to realize our Divinity, etc.

Yet, God is really never explained, either, and Berg portrays "Him" quite similarly to the typical male Patriarch of the Old Testament. The Earth is described as a warzone where the stakes are high (our very souls, in fact), and that we are basically warriors that are either committing suicide or becoming like God in every moment. Wow, the pressure! There is an urgent tone to this book that almost borders on paranoia and apocalyptic gloom. I agree that it would be nice for critical mass to occur and for humans to spontaneously evolve into Oneness...but quite frankly, I don't think the Creator is fretting about us going to hell in a handbasket because He/She knows that all is well.

The tone of this book is far different than what I feel in my Spirit and what I've read from books like Journey of Souls, which chronicles copious amounts of information from past-life regressions on the nature of creation, souls, the afterlife, life between lives, and the purpose of incarnating. Even if the Earth were to blow up, I'm confident that the Creator would find another suitable place in this vast Universe for us to continue our spiritual schooling! And, in books like Journey of Souls, we are informed that all things serve a purpose and for our highest good.

Yet, in Berg's book, I feel like I'm back in Pentecostal Sunday School where I'm being admonished that there's a boogey man out to get me and that I better get my act together or go to hell. For a book that proclaims Oneness, sharing, and the "illusion of the middle" (in other words, there's no in-between on the road to godhood: We're either on the road to light or on the road to darkness, says Berg)--there's a heckuva lot of duality and fear-based dogma therein.

It just doesn't jive with me. I see all the people flocking to this kind of teaching and I can't help but feel like the child in Emperor's New Clothes--wondering why celebs fawn over elaborate, silken clothes that just aren't there.

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