Madonna puts her money where her karma is to fund London Kabbalah HQ

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The Independent Online

She credited Kabbalah, the ancient tradition of Jewish mysticism, for the "creative inspiration" behind her best-selling album Ray of Light. And now Madonna is repaying the debt.

The pop superstar and her husband, the film director Guy Ritchie, are said to have donated some of the £3.65m cost of a new building for the Kabbalah Centre in central London. The Estates Gazette, the trade paper of the property world, reported yesterday that the London Kabbalah Centre is moving into a Grade II-listed, 10,000sqft office building just north of Oxford Street - thanks to financial help from Madonna.

She is one of a number of celebrities whose interest has helped the Kabbalah Centre to outgrow its small offices above a Vidal Sassoon hairdressing school in Grosvenor Street, four years after it first came to the capital. Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall and Naomi Campbell also follow the Jewish mysticism. This includes wearing a red thread - a charmed wrist bracelet that keeps evil spirits away.

The esoteric teachings of Kabbalah are said to go back thousands of years to the beginning of Judaism. But the London centre is said to teach a simplified version - dubbed "Kabbalah-lite" - offering instant "spiritual wisdom". Critics argue it has a distinct New Age feel and is little more than the latest self-help fad.

"The Kabbalah is an incredibly powerful tradition going back thousands of years," said Jeremy Rosen, a rabbi at the Yakar educational centre in Hendon, north London. "What's being peddled at the moment is like a comic book version. Everyone wants an overnight solution to their problems.

"People have this attitude that you just have to take this water and it performs magic. That's ridiculous. It may have a placebo effect, but that's nothing to do with its intrinsic qualities. This is the new Kabbalah of hocus pocus."

But despite the criticism, the pop queen, 44, claims Kabbalah is helping her to "unpick her ego". She is writing a series of children's books based on its parables and is said to have consulted the teachings about the best time to conceive her third child.