Interviewer: As a child, were you introduced to any of these big-picture questions?
Madonna: I was raised in a very Catholic house. So religion was a big part of my life – going to school, reading the Bible, praying to Jesus, going to confession, thinking about good, bad, what’s a sin, what’s an original sin, what’s a venial sin, but that’s all morals and ethics. Morals and ethics change depending on what corner you’re standing one, and to me, don’t answer the bigger questions. Also, religion requires you to be a sheep, and to not dig deep. I never really got a lot of my questions answered, so consequently, I just sort of moved away from religion. My mother was a very religious person, and my father still is. He’s a very decent person, but I don’t think all religious people are decent. I think they hide behind the cloak of being religious – they don’t have compassion for their fellow men, they’re judgmental of people who are not their religion, and I don’t subscribe to any of that. I studied Hinduism, I was searching for all of these things right before I got pregnant. Then when I was pregnant, the desire to try to understand became even more apparent. And when I met my husband, he was searching, too, but he was searching from an intellectual point of view, he was reading theories of evolution, and the Big Bang, physics and science of how did the world really get created. He was approaching it from an intellectual point of view, and I was approaching it from an intuitive and emotional point of view, which is the essential difference between men and women anyway. We met each other at the perfect time – he grew up, like me, wanting to break all the rules. Why did we want to break all the rules? Because the rules didn’t make sense, that’s why. The rules didn’t give any answers, so I was being rebellious for no particular reason, and so was he, in his way. I don’t reject the idea that Jesus Christ walked on this earth, and He was a divine being, and He had a very important message to bring to the world, but I reject the religious behavior of any religious organization that does not encourage you to ask questions and do your own exploration. Nobody can make sense of the world we live in these days. You read about wars, you read about the senseless killings, and the famines, and the AIDS epidemics, and you think, where is this all going? What’s the point? Why did God create this world if we’re all selfish and are going to cause our own destruction and extinction? Why doesn’t anybody want to know that – that’s what amazes me. We live in a society that encourages people to just live, base all decisions on what we see – everything is about marketing, advertising. We are raised to believe the world begins and ends with our five senses. No one is encourage to have a spiritual life – if you want to have a spiritual life now, you’re considered a geek or a weirdo, or you’re a religious zealot or a nut. We live in a world that’s full of distractions and tinsel and things that are going to constantly distract us from looking inward. So you’re always at odds with yourself. I do care about the state of my soul. But there’s this great movie playing down the street … or There’s a football game I want to watch. And we are constantly bombarded with this seduction of the senses.
Interviewer: Of course you spent a lot of your career seducing our senses. You were part of the machinery – the engine – creating our pop culture. Do you now say, “I was a distraction”?
Madonna: Yeah, I know I was. Definitely. Listen, there were some times I really had an altruistic goal, I really did want to help people. And then other times, I just wanted to show off – let’s call a spade a spade. And I knew I could get away with it, and I knew I could get people to pay attention to me. Do I think I helped people? Yeah, I do. Do I think I hindered people? Yes I do. I wasn’t really clear on what I was doing yet, my point of view. I wasn’t thinking responsibility, I wasn’t thinking everything I say and do has an effect on the world around me. Sometimes now I sit back and say, What was I thinking before I was thinking, you know?
Interviewer: How did you help people and how did you hinder them?
Madonna: I helped people who got my message, 10 or 15 years ago, to believe in your dreams, and to not let anybody get in the way. If you’re really passionate about something, no matter where you are, no matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done or where you’ve come from, just go for it. I think that helped a lot of people. I hurt people by confusing them. Sometimes I was being overtly sexual for the sake of showing off, when I didn’t need to be. One minute I was saying believe in yourself, and the next I was saying just be sexually provocative for the sake of being sexually provocative. Now that’s confusing. Ultimately, none of us wants to be judged or approved of or loved because of the way we look or how sexy we are. We want people to appreciate us for who we are on the inside. So I didn’t exactly help people by being an exhibitionist. I think I hurt myself, too, because I ended up devaluing my original message, that anybody could do anything – it’s about what’s on the inside. Then I was glorifying the outside. I was just a person who was not thinking. I let myself be tricked. Yeah, be tricked – by the physical world, knowing I was getting attention, letting it pump up my ego. Aren’t I great, they’re writing about me, my picture’s on the cover of every magazine, I’m so fabulous. I wasn’t saying those things out loud, but deep down inside, they were there.
Interviewer: You’ve been very open about how drawn you’ve become to the study of Kabbalah, an ancient spiritual quest that teaches principles of personal responsibility, and keeping the ego in check, and giving – all of which are principles shared by many of the world’s religions. So, why Kabbalah?
Madonna: It is not a religion – it’s a belief system. You can come from any religious background to study Kabbalah, but it’s too weird for people, too foreign. They can’t get their heads around it, so they have to devalue it by saying it’s a trend or a cult. All this nonsense about how only celebrities are into it just makes me laugh, because to say you’re a Kabbalist, there’s nothing easy about it. It’s not enough just to read a book. You have to change, and the only way you can change your nature is to constantly, constantly study.