Madonna, Liz Taylor, Mick Jagger, Gwyneth Paltrow, Courtney Love, Sandra Bernhard and Barbra Streisand are among the stars who have studied kabbalah, the ancient branch of Jewish mysticism. But the L.A.-based Kabbalah Center, popular with celebrities, does not offer "a traditional expression of either Judaism or the historic kabbalah," investigator Rick Ross told MSNBC.com's Jeannette Walls.
"The Kabbalah Center is a highly organized, highly profitable group which I consider to be the Berg family business."
Phillip Berg, a former insurance salesman, heads up the Kabbalah Center chain in the U.S. In addition to giving pricey courses, the chain sells books, tapes, scents, and expensive skincare products both at its centers and at Kabbalah.com.
A spokeswoman for the Kabbalah Center dismisses Ross' charges, pointing out that the group is a not-for-profit organization.
"We have 50 centers and our objective is to reach as many people as possible," she says. "So being organized is a good thing."
The group also sells bottled kabbalah water - which Madonna swears by.
The water, according to the organization's Web site, is "dynamic 'living' water" with "a highly organized structure, crystalline formations and a fractal design." The Kabbalah Center's Yehuda Berg insists kabbalah water is a tradition dating back centuries.
"We charge the water with positive energy," he tells Walls, "so that it has healing powers."
But Rabbi Immanuel Shochet, an ultra-Orthodox expert on historic kabbalah who has clashed with the Kabbalah Center in the past, has told the Jerusalem Post, "There's no such thing as kabbalah water."
Ross claims that besides selling overpriced trinkets and "enhanced" water to its members, the Kabbalah Center sometimes meddles with romantic relationships.
"If Madonna ever decided to leave, she'd better be sure that Guy Ritchie wanted to leave with her, because there's a possibility that they would interfere with her marriage," he told PAGE SIX.
"I've had spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends contact me and tell me that when they wanted to leave the group, they were told that they were somehow in spiritual darkness and if the person still in kabbalah wanted to stay in the light, they'd be better off with someone else. They break up relationships and at times micromanage marriages."
The Kaballah Center's Manhattan headquarters is on East 48th Street. The group also has compounds in Boston, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, San Diego and Houston.