By Corinne J. Brown
Colorado Expression Magazine
Body & Soul
At a time when the answer to almost any question can be found on Google, or by asking Siri, it might seem obsolete that an organization committed solely to the most fundamental questions of life flourishes in southeast Denver. The Kabbalah Experience not only attracts students from every background, it also employs one of the oldest systems of thought to deal with the challenges of modern day life. Simple discourse characterizes a typical class; the curriculum covers the broadest definitions of spirituality and personal growth.
“The school started with just four students back in 2003,” explains founder Dr. David Sanders, a psychologist who maintains an active clinical practice. Armed with years of study in Kabbalistic texts, a sophisticated sense of humor, and a wide repertoire of resources including literature, theology, and the global arts and sciences, Sanders is an unusual mentor. His classes engage the mind, stimulate thought, and provoke investigation on many levels.
But why, you might ask, is the school called the Kabbalah Experience?
“Early in our studies,” answers Sanders, “students would come to class and say they had a Kabbalah experience. What they meant was an experience they could not rationally explain, a glimpse or connection with what we call the unseen reality. I had taught Kabbalah for many years, but more as a subject of intellectual fascination. My own life had not turned out the way I expected—and that turn of events led me to consider translating the Kabbalah into a practical tool for spiritual growth.”
Currently, each semester enrollment averages 140-150 students attending weekly classes. Three semesters a year are offered. The core program begins with “Soul,” followed by “Space,” followed by “Time,” all subjects rich in content. (Author note-Having taken these, I can guarantee you’ll never look at the universe or yourself the same way again.)
The next series dwells on the self, beginning with “Who Are You?” an in-depth look at our many roles and identities. Each semester has its own curriculum with learning that builds upon itself and helps to deepen one’s awareness about the possibilities of spiritual growth. For centuries, however, the Kabbalah was considered a sacred body of knowledge regarded as inaccessible; holy, in fact. One might ask; why the change? Why now?
Perhaps it’s the stress we live under that prompts many of us to seek a more spiritual path; or at least ask “what”— and “why?”
“We are all connected, for better or worse,” suggests Sanders. “We’re the first generation with instant global awareness. We can’t ignore what transpires, so we have to awaken, not only as individuals, but as a collective. The opportunity and the responsibility is here for us to evolve new stories—for ourselves, and for the world.”
Although Jewish in origin, and unique in its particular take on spirituality, Kabbalah has a universal message that aligns with many other spiritual teachings. People of every faith find meaning. Kabbalah evolved thanks to spiritual teachers who took risks and even some condemnation for taking the science and philosophy of Kabbalah and enriching it through what Sanders calls a process of “applied Kabbalah—translating its ideas into practical application.”
“While there are many names for God,” Sanders continued, “we have come to understand they are merely a starting point that allows us to begin a relationship with that which is not only unseen, but beyond our seeing.”
Third-year student Diana Arendrup attends because she feels the school adds stability to her life. “I’m finally at peace with myself,” she said. “The Kabbalah Experience came into my life at the perfect time to allow me to heal my soul and continue my journey.”
Kabbalah, however, is definitely not an “end all” or a quick fix for anyone. “Rather,” stressed Sanders, “it’s a timeless set of teachings that enable people to move quickly and pragmatically toward change in their lives. It doesn’t “work on you”—you need to apply the learning for it to be of use to you.”
Second-year student Dr. David Franklin, born in South Africa and recently retired from a 30 year career in Anesthesiology in Denver, adds this. “I came to Kabbalah Experience after studying the mystical traditions of all the other great religions. I had been intrigued by Kabbalah for some time, so it was a matter of finding the right teacher. I felt a welcoming atmosphere at KE for someone who did not grow up in the Jewish tradition. The teaching style is stimulating but practical.”
The school is unique in that students can experience all levels of study; one can enroll in a class or two and learn new ways of seeing themselves and the world around them, while others deepen their study over the course of many years. No prerequisites required. The curriculum is ever evolving—so there is no end, but each person is encouraged to find new beginnings as they see fit.
Small classes, conducive to lively discussion, are currently led by five teachers in addition to Sanders. Each subject area provides opportunities for new teachers to come on board and bring their wisdom and share their unique teaching style. Behind the scenes, a staff of four part-time employees handles administrative duties and keep things running year-round.
“The way we teach Kabbalah,” explains Sanders, “enriches people’s lives, providing a safe place for people to connect with each other. We’re not just a school, we’re a community.”
For those who commit to the long run, a basic program of some four years, a radical shift might be expected; that is, an enhanced awareness of who a person believes they are, of their life purpose, and what it means to be fully present.
“It’s not so much what they walk away with,” said Sanders with a knowing smile, “as what they walk toward: committing to an even greater accountability to their families, their community, and to the world.”