LAKEVIEW — Those curious about experiencing the New Age, mystical spirituality of Madonna firsthand now have the chance to do it for free — for the first time.
The Kabbalah Centre, a controversial spirituality center popular with celebrities, is offering its intro course for free after more than 35 years of charging, including at a location at 3036 N. Ashland Ave in Lakeview.
The Power of Kabbalah 1 is a seven-week course that's the "foundation" of learning Kabbalah, said Esther Larkin, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles-based center.
It teaches Kabbalah's philosophy on the creation of the world, the purpose of life and how to reach a higher consciousness. The course typically costs between $200 and $270, with specials in that past that have priced it at about $50.
Fees fund the course and materials, and donations go toward "research and development" of ways to make Kabbalah more accessible, such as translations or online lectures, according to the center.
The center sees the new promotion as a way for friends to introduce others to the spirituality without cost, Larkin said.
"If people understood more of these ideas, they'd make more positive decisions and make the world a better place," she said.
Kabbalah Centre has brick-and-mortar locations in more than 40 cities. It rose in the public eye after Madonna started studying at the center in the 1990s, and soon, celebrities including Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher and Britney Spears, began to practice it. The Lakeview location opened 15 years ago.
But some have criticized the center as a "Jewish Scientology"-like cult that preys on the rich and famous. It's been embroiled in financial scandals in recent years, with questions regarding the disappearance of millions of dollars intended to build a school for girls in Malawi.
Larkin said those issues aren't on the minds of people seeking the spiritual guidance of Kabbalah, which emphasizes sharing, awareness of "ego" and the idea that all people are "one."
Once they experience it, the controversy doesn't matter, she said.
"We're just here for those who like to study," she said. "It's not our place to convince people one way or another. The best way for people to discover it is for themselves. Come in and test, and see if it feels right."