Once Madonna was a star at the top of the entertainment industry and only Michael Jackson seemed to shine as brightly.

However, both stars have dimmed since the 1980s and though Madonna may not have plunged into the abyss like Jackson, she certainly has gone downhill.

Critics say her latest “re-invention” isn’t “quite in sync” and she seems “a little desperate” reports Knight Ridder Newspapers.

Of course no pop icon can hope to remain permanently fixed as a star shining forever, but some like Cher, Tina Turner and Bette Midler have done rather well at maintaining their longevity.

Tina Turner didn’t retire until 60, while still selling out large venues.

Cher didn’t hang up her concert wigs until she reached 56, walking away after a highly successful “farewell tour.”

Madonna will be 46 next month.

The formula for enduring diva-hood seems to be carefully sustaining your fan base.

However, “Madonna’s dogmatic kabbala babble…[was ] an utter bore to her hard-core fans,” says the pop culture editor of One2One Magazine.

Unlike Cher, Tina and Bette—Madonna seems to think giving her fans what she thinks they need is more important than what they want.

Madonna and husband Guy Ritchie give 10-week Kabbalah Centre courses as birthday presents to their friends reported the London Telegraph.

It seems like the Kabbalah is the only material these days for the former “Material Girl.”

There are books by Madonna for children based upon the “Kabbalah,” and crates of “Kabbalah water” backstage during her concerts. She reportedly encourages her tour crew to “get into the groove” by studying the religious text.

Madonna has even changed her name to “Esther” as another nod to her newfound faith reported the New York Post.

Her next planned tour is not a series of concerts, but an apparent pilgrimage to study in Israel with a hundred of her Kabbalah pals reports Associated Press.

Madonna also has plans for a new feature-length documentary scheduled to be shown at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, which will supposedly explain her devotion to Kabbalah reports World Entertainment News Network.

But respected rabbis and serious scholars have dismissed the version of “Kabbalah” Madonna has taken up, not to mention the people that teach it to her.

The Chief Rabbi of England issued an unprecedented public warning about the Kabbalah Centre and the South African Chief Rabbi said, “There have been cases of spiritual and psychological damage caused by the centre,” reported The London Times.

The Vatican has also placed the organization on its watch list reported MSNBC.

The version of Kabbalah Madonna promotes is based upon the teachings of Philip Berg, which have been derided as “McWisdom,” a kind of self-serving fast fix hodge-podge of magical mumbo-jumbo including red string to ward off the “evil eye,” special water to “meditate” on and other assorted products.

Madonna’s husband Guy Ritchie also appears to be bitten by the Berg bug and like his wife is suffering career setbacks. “Gone are the days when Guy was at the forefront of British cinema” says The Sun.

Some may wonder how Madonna the street-smart star known for her tough cynicism could buy into something like this.

A thoughtful article about “Celebrity Sects” run by The Scotsman explored that question.

“Once you are a Madonna-type figure you basically live in this very egocentric world, surrounded by sycophants who agree with everything you say,” remarked an expert on the psychology of fame.

So why not have a religion that panders to celebrity status and pays special homage to a star’s self-centered concerns?

The Bergs no doubt cater to Madonna, after all she has brought them increasing attention, recruits and money.

Kabbalah Centre devotee and sitcom star Roseanne says of her fellow celebrities , “Sometimes we get better and inspire other people to get better but none of us is altruistic–we’re all pretty selfish, fear-driven people,” reported The Mirror.

“Nobody would be a celebrity if they weren’t severely damaged…We’re looking for all the love we never got as children or whatever,” she added.

And the Kabbalah Centre often seems to pick up damaged goods.

Elizabeth Taylor, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are all examples. Each with their own set of personal problems hanging on them like paparazzi.

After receiving a Golden Globe for her role as Evita in 1996, there was no nod from Oscar for Madonna.

Approaching middle age and without the film career she had hoped for the star became a single mother.

It was about this time that she was reportedly introduced to the Kabbalah Centre.

Madonna’s much reported childhood loss of her mother left the girl looking for something to fill that void.

And perhaps now her fear of aging, a fading career and/or the desire to somehow remain relevant may have motivated Madonna to become an almost full-time Kabbalah Centre devotee.

But one thing seems almost certain now, Madonna’s diva days are fading away. And largely it appears because of her ever-escalating devotion to an alleged “cult.”

The star seemingly admitted as much when she mockingly modeled a T-shirt labeled “cult member” while visiting the Kabbalah Centre in LA.

And rather than following the career trajectory of enduring legends such as Tina Turner or Cher, Madonna seems intent upon following in the footsteps of Dianna Ross.

But unlike the troubled former 1960s superstar Supreme who was jailed for drunk driving, this descending diva may find her fall not fed by literal intoxication, but rather by a religious one instead.


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