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Move over Madonna

    Celebrities are a double-edged sword. Madonna's patronage has brought the Kabbalah Centre money and attention, much of it in sales of red string and mystical water. But there are whisperings in the centre that its celebrity image may have done it more harm than good.

    The Power of Peace Conference felt like a rebrand, more Psychologies, less Heat magazine.

    Outside the Grosvenor House, hundreds of glamorous guests queued outside the doors before they opened at 9.30am. You could have been forgiven for thinking many were dressed for the Oscars.

    Inside, guests were given sparkly blue butterfly badges to allow them through into the conference room for a lavish breakfast of smoked salmon, fruit kebabs and muffins. Although guests helped themselves to jugs of water, no-one seemed to know if this was the famous Kabbalah kind. The group once told an undercover journalist that the water could cure cancer.

    The appeal for some soon became apparent, as the besuited guests swapped business cards. One remarked: "This place is the best for networking. Multimillion pound deals have been made through the Kabbalah Centre."

    As speakers Dr Jehan Sadat and Kabbalah Centre founder Karen Berg entered the hall, guests rose, cheering.

    The 500-strong audience listened attentively to Dr Sadat. But it was Ms Berg who secured the standing ovation, with people calling out her name. Her speech was a hotchpotch, calling on people to seek out the "diamond" within themselves. Natural disasters, volcanoes and hurricanes were "someone trying to tell us something." Some listened with rapt attention, others shook their heads in disbelief.

    Guests, topics and speakers were all presented as the face of a new, more thoughtful Kabbalah Centre. But it is Ms Berg herself who could do with it most.

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