Michael Berg, along with brother Yehudah, is heir to the Kabbalah Centre dynasty. The Centre, famous for popularizing Jewish mysticism and attracting non-Jewish celebrities from Madonna to Paris Hilton, was founded in 1969 by Michael's father Philip Berg. The Kabbalah empire now includes learning centers throughout the world, a charitable foundation, a full product line, a children's education program, and a publishing arm. The latest offering from Kabbalah Publishing is Michael Berg's "Becoming Like God," which promises, like Berg's other books, to explain how kabbalah can transform readers' lives. Berg is also the author of "The Secret: Unlocking the Source of Joy & Fulfillment," and "The Way." Beliefnet's Rebecca Phillips spoke with Berg recently about what it means to "become like God" and why he believes Kabbalah is a universal philosophy, not specific to Judaism.

I have to admit when I first saw the title of your book, "Becoming Like God," I was taken aback. My immediate reaction was: That's not possible. The whole idea seems blasphemous.
It is a concept that has been around for thousands of years, but people aren't necessarily aware of it. To underscore the point, I often ask people the meaning of the biblical passage that says that man was created in God's image. There aren't many ways to explain it, except in that simplest form. It means that every one of us is built with the essence of God. Our soul is the essence of God, and that means that every single one of us has the potential to become like God and to heal, to bless, to do almost everything that God can do.

So to become like God means to be able to do the same things that God can do?
It's a spiritually transformative process. As the Zohar teaches it, the barrier between every single one of us and our true potential is the fact that we are to whatever degree disconnected from God. And the Zohar teaches us how to break down those barriers and make a stronger connection with God. Through that strong connection, we reveal our true potential, which enables us to do amazing things, so much more than we even think we can do.

What are some of the major ways to remove those barriers to get closer to God?
The ego is the main thing within us that is not God; it is the strongest barrier between ourselves and God. In simple terms, when we break down the ego, we become like God.

The concept of breaking down the ego sounds a lot like Buddhism. Do you see similarities between Buddhism and Kabbalah?
I don't know too much about Buddhism, but I know that there certainly are similarities. Of course since Kabbalah is such an inter-spiritual wisdom, it makes a lot of sense that there are a lot of similarities between it and other spiritual teachings.

In your book, you introduce the idea that becoming like God somehow makes us immortal. Can you explain what you mean by that?
One of the things that Kabbalah teaches is that the contemporary world filled with pain and suffering is not the world as it is meant to be. As we continue to evolve spiritually, connecting with our soul and becoming more like God, we can transform this world. We can end the pain and suffering that we take as a given.

This is another concept that when you first hear it, may sound new, but it appears in the Bible. The Bible says there will come a time when death literally will be swallowed up, meaning, there will be an end to death. This notion of immortality is accepted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, but most people have an idea that we sort of wait for the Messiah to come and when the Messiah comes, we will find ourselves in a utopian world. In contrast, Kabbalah teaches that we are not waiting for a personal savior to redeem us: It's our job, every single one of us and together as a collective, to bring about a world where maybe even, as God says in the Bible, it will be possible that death will end. And I do believe that's a possibility, as have kabbalists and sages for thousands of years.

You said before that Kabbalah is an inter-spiritual wisdom, and one thing I noticed about your book is that it never mentioned Judaism. Is there anything specifically Jewish about Kabbalah, or about your book?
The wisdom of Kabbalah, as the Zohar teaches, it began even before the creation of this world. Judaism as we know it began either with Abraham or with the exodus. But Kabbalah is a unifying wisdom. It's not exclusively the property of one religion. If, as the kabbalists explain it, this wisdom can improve our lives, can improve our world, there's no logical sense for it to be the domain of only one people. Although historically this wisdom had been taught for the most part by Jews to Jews, but at its core, the purpose of this wisdom and the goal of the kabbalist is to reveal this wisdom to the entire world. Therefore the books that I write are meant for everyone.

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