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Freedom of Will


An ancient prayer says: "Lord! Give me strength to change the things I can change, give me courage to accept the things I cannot change, and grant me wisdom to know the difference." So what exactly can we influence in our life? Do we possess enough freedom to change our life and destiny? Why can't we naturally obtain this wisdom?

Our nature is based on laziness and healthy egoism, meaning that we desire to receive the maximum through minimal effort. Why in spite of that fact, unlike animals, do we perform thoughtless and ineffective actions?

Perhaps, we act where everything is pre-programmed and our role should be a lot more passive? Perhaps, in most cases our life is pre-ordained, while we choose to believe that the course of events depends on us? Perhaps we should transform our life and stop thinking that we are decision-makers: Let it flow and remain passive, acting only when we can really elicit change?

Small children act unwisely, because their development occurs unconsciously, instinctively. Nature compels them to act one way or another for them to learn. An adult defines a goal, and the will to achieve that goal provides him with energy. However, when an adult defines a goal, desire, means, etc., is he really free and aware of what he does or the goal compels him to act one way or another?

Obviously, we err in determining the limits of our abilities to achieve the goal. In other words, we wish to achieve the impossible or try to change what we cannot. Nature does not reveal to us where we are really free to act. It allows us to make mistakes, both as individuals and as mankind.

Its aim is to lead us to disillusionment in our own powers to change anything in this life or in ourselves. As Nature continues to confuse and disorient us in our lives, we slowly begin to question what we can actually influence.

In "The Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot" the Baal HaSulam says that man's search for the spiritual path begins with the following questions: "What is the meaning of my life? What do I live for? I can see nothing rational in my life. Why do I have to suffer all these years? I neither enjoy it nor give anyone pleasure. So what is the point of it all?"

Thus, we would stop and define what we can really influence and for what it is worth for us to live. If I can influence something, then my existence is purposeful and sensible. Unless I have freedom of will, I am just an animal that realizes it is an animal. Animals do not have such awareness; they simply exist.

Thus, it turns out that the question about freedom of will is the most cardinal question not only in philosophy, but also in my everyday life because I ask, "Why do I suffer, what do I live for, and what do I do every moment?" Finally, all of these questions come to the notion of free will. Hence, this is the only and principal question, which man has to answer.

If a person has freedom of will, one should define precisely to what it refers - to everything, to nothing, or it has certain limitations. Is this the freedom of behavior, decision, or action? What limits such freedom -

Me, my surroundings, or our relations? Or perhaps it is limited by my relations with the Creator? All of this has to be clarified.

In reality, the notion of freedom of will include absolutely everything.

Question: Why does this question include everything?

I am standing before the future. Who am I in this life - a preprogrammed automaton or a creature with free will? I can be a marionette and simultaneously understand and see what a preprogrammed automaton I am.

I can be free without knowing that. I can be free and decide, assess, understand, and act to the extent of my freedom. If I am not free, I see that I am constrained in my actions and can agree with that or not. As a result, it turns out that my entire life in the realization of myself, of others and of the Creator comes down to the question of freedom.

Question: Which of the three categories - desire, decision, or action - lacks freedom?

You already ask for an answer. Wait a little. Where is freedom? Perhaps, nowhere.

Question: Nature allows our mistakes. Is there an allowable "extent" to a mistake?

Perhaps, nature does not allow it and we do not err, so it just seems to us. Possibly, I see my own mistakes in comparison with what should have been done and that is the revelation of my freedom.

An animal never errs because it has no freedom of will: it acts instinctively, hence makes no mistakes. We see that all animals behave correctly and can only envy them. While basing their actions on strength and circumstances, they choose what they need with maximum correctness.

That is to say, there is a certain inner mechanism that optimally calculates all possible variants and chooses the best of them. In this case we say that there is no freedom of will. There is only a mechanism and preset inner and outer circumstances and properties.

It turns out that without knowing our inner properties and external circumstances we cannot feel any clear program of action and perceive it as freedom.

Does it mean that freedom lies in the lack of information? Is this what I call freedom, when I have no idea how to act? On the contrary, I am in captivity of unknown circumstances.

So what is freedom? Suppose I knew all about myself and the surrounding reality? An animal does not know more than I do, but it has no doubts: it acts in accordance with what it knows, whereas I am aware of some unknown zone concealed from me. I am unable to «read» another person.

I know neither other people nor myself, which creates a void, a lack of information. Is this called freedom? From what I am I free? This is absolute ignorance. Our notion of freedom is completely distorted. If we had the same circumstances as animals, we would have been robots. Perhaps we are robots now, only we do not realize it.

So, we need to clarify to what this category of «freedom of will» refers, what is its meaning? Finally, we will understand that freedom lies only in being similar to the Creator, that there is a state that can really be called «freedom».

The rest is just unyielding submission to circumstances (both known and unknown). It is existence within one's nature, regardless of whether it is revealed or concealed. When we defy the power of our will to receive pleasure, we become free.

Question: It turns out that we are given a role of perceivers of the actions that are carried out on us. What does He want from us anyway?

Obviously, it is this sensation of the unknown that makes us different from animals. It comes down to the question: What do I live for? What is the point of it all? Animals have no such question, but I have because I feel the lack of information, knowledge, and attainment.

This is the question about my freedom.

Question: If I do not aspire to be similar to the Creator, does it mean that I do not realize my freedom of will?

If freedom lies in complete similarity to the Creator, then my correction is a realization of freedom of will. Is freedom in an action or in the thought before this action? In other words, is it in its planning or in its realization and equivalence to the Creator? What is the meaning of freedom?

Essence of Freedom

"On general consideration, freedom can be referred to nature's law that permeates all aspects of life. We see that animals suffer in captivity. This testifies to the fact that nature opposes enslaving any creature. It is not without reason that humankind waged wars until it reached some degree of personal freedom.

In any case, our idea of freedom is very vague and if we delve into its meaning, almost nothing will be left of it. Indeed, prior to demanding personal freedom, we have to assume that every individual has an aspiration for it. However, first we need to make sure if an individual can act in accordance with his free will."

So what does it mean to be free? Does it imply that by realizing my "I," I realize my freedom of will? You see how difficult and vague the very definition of "freedom" becomes?

Our Life is between Delight and Suffering

"If one analyzes man's actions, we will discover that all of them are forced and were carried out under compulsion. Man's inner nature and the external circumstances compel him to act in accordance with a certain algorithm of behavior. That is because nature placed us between pleasure and suffering and we have no freedom to prefer suffering to pleasure."

If the will to receive pleasure is my essence, the material of which I am made, then, no matter how hard I try, I will choose what I consider the best and will run away from what I perceive as bad. I will not be able to change myself; all the same I will aspire to good and escape from bad.

The only thing I can do is differentiate my assessment of good and bad. I can say, "This thing is bad, but that one is even worse."

I can change these standards in myself, but in accordance with new standards my actions will still make me aspire to pleasure and flee from pain. That is to say, I can modify my evaluation of good and bad, but after such reevaluation took place in me I will continue acting as before. My material - the will to receive - remains unchanged and always chooses the most optimal variant of enjoyment..

Thus, I can only change my inner evaluation of good and bad under the influence of society, education and other factors. However, after this evaluation is made, the decision always comes from the will to receive pleasure.

"We have no freedom to choose suffering and reject pleasure. Man's advantage over an animal lies in his ability to see a distant goal (i.e. modify his system of priorities). Man is ready to agree to a certain amount of suffering because he sees a forthcoming reward in the future.

In reality, there is nothing but pure calculation, when we see that benefit overweighs the pain and agree to suffer for the sake of future compensation. In this way, we go to a surgical operation and pay a large sum of money for it." We are ready to suffer in order to be healed.

In other words, we make calculations, draw information from the future to the present, make an assessment and make up our mind accordingly, but any way, we take a decision inside our egoistical Kli.

Everything comes down to the calculation. When we subtract suffering from the anticipated pleasure, we receive a positive remainder and know that it is worth enduring pain in exchange for prospective delight.

This is the way we are created. Those who seem reckless and imprudent to us (romantics or people who are ready for self-sacrifice) are people for whom the future is as obvious as the present and for its sake they are ready to endure incredible pain, which in our eyes looks as a heroic feat.

In fact, it is no feat at all. They make the same calculation as other people, but take into consideration parameters that others overlook. This calculation is still egoistical, based on the reception of pleasure in accordance with the nature of creation.

Psychologists know that man's priorities can be changed in such a way that certain calculations will make a hero out of a coward. The future can be so glorified in a person's eyes that he will be ready to endure any hardships and make any sacrifice to achieve it.

Therefore, the only difference between humans and animals lies in the fact that we take the future into account, can see and evaluate it with regard to the present and decide whether something is worth doing or not. Our calculation is more complicated than that of animals, but it remains egoistical and is based on the program of maximal enjoyment.

If so, then there is a computing device beside our desire to enjoy. This device can accurately calculate a number of possible variants while taking into account preset social values, desires for honor, fame, wealth, and knowledge. In the end it comes up with an optimal variant of optimal pleasure for each and every one of us in accordance with everyone's natural parameters.

Question: Is it freedom or a game of uncertainty?

Of course, this is not freedom because the calculation is made on the basis of precise data. Perhaps, freedom is our ignorance with regard to what should be taken into account and what should not. Is this freedom or the lack of precise data?

We constantly aspire to obtain more accurate data. We develop sciences, wish to comprehend our own nature and the surrounding world. We sort of try to wipe off the 'white spots' of unknown parameters and aspire to replace them with known, familiar ones. Thus, a person becomes even a more like an automaton.

Perhaps, a primitive man who used to live in a cave was more free? He did not know what was going to happen to him, he was afraid of wind and the sun. If he was more free, wherein lied his freedom?

If we knew everything and made precise calculations, would we be free? Quite the contrary. Thus our present state of uncertainty is not freedom; it is the lack of information. This is similar to our attitude toward faith. I say, 'I believe'. What do I believe in? I believe there is God, alternative existence, something else.

What does it mean to 'believe'? What is faith? Is it something bigger than the lack of information that we fill with our fantasies?

We see that the amount of information that we have or lack does not determine the presence of freedom of will. Perhaps, freedom is above information - when I know everything, but in spite of it, I will be able to act freely.

How can one achieve that?

Suppose, I know myself absolutely and completely realize what happens around me. I know exactly according to which parameter, algorithm I will establish my relations with others. I know how my body is made and how my Kli will act according to its will to enjoy. I know it quite precisely. I face pleasure, and I know all of its forms and parameters: knowledge, wealth, glory, honor, and spiritual attainment. I am a Kli and I face the Light. I know exactly what and how I want to receive from it.

So what freedom is this? This is simply the complete knowledge of basic data.

Freedom means when in defiance to my egoistical nature I can rise above it and start making decisions in accordance with a totally different principle, formula, algorithm. In other words, freedom is above the Tzimtzum (restriction).

Only if I can restrict myself and disregard my nature, will I be able to acquire freedom. Freedom lies in choosing a Kli for a new kind of delight, in the realization of the will to enjoy. In other words, I choose a form of pleasure that is totally different from what my nature demands. I may know it or not; it may be concealed from me or revealed to me. Here we can find out why a certain part of information is concealed from us.

Yet, is this freedom, when instead of my natural desire to enjoy and the available pleasure, I take the Creator's desires and His ways of enjoyment? Are they imposed on me or do I choose them independently? Can I freely choose anything else? If not, then what kind of free choice is this? I do not know it.

Obviously, freedom is above our nature (egoism, Kli); it appears after we have made a Tzimtzum.

Who Determines Our Pleasures?

Not only have we hardly any free choice, but the character of pleasure is not our prerogative either. It does not happen according to our free will, but is dictated by other people's desires. We do not choose fashion, a way of life, hobbies, leisure, food and so on - all this is imposed on us by the tastes and desires of our surroundings. We accept the opinion of the society's majority, not of its best part, which presumably understands what is better for people's spiritual advancement.

The majority's tastes and aspirations rarely reach a significant level, and since we adopt the majority's views, our standards are rather low.

We prefer to behave simpler without burdening ourselves too much, but our entire life is constrained by manners accepted as the norm in society. These turn into the laws of human behavior and existence. If this is so, where is our free will? It turns out that none of our actions are rewarded or punished.

If we constantly submit to the imposed opinion of society, then why are we considered free? We behave like everyone else. If everyone steals, we steal too. Whatever is present in man, he received from his surroundings. In this case, none of us has any freedom of will; all of man's thoughts and actions are the products of society.

Why does everyone perceive himself as an individual? What is so special in each of us? Which of our properties can we independently change? If one does exist, we must by all means bring it to light, distinguish it from the rest of our properties and develop it.

A person should not worry about his nature - he will always act in accordance with its instructions. The surrounding society will impose on us its will and we will have to submit to it against our desire.

However, if there is something within me that does not come from the surrounding nature, but descended from above, and if I try to understand what it is and what I should do with it, then I will obviously be able to free myself from the imposing power of my own nature and society. Possibly, I will submit myself to another will, which might be freedom?

Possibly, but if not, then freedom does not exist at all.

Question: Do we have to receive absolute knowledge of how our egoism functions and then take our decisions based on the contrary, or should we aspire to the Creator now without knowing what it is like?

How are we supposed to act in our circumstances? First of all, this is exactly what we are trying to clarify. Secondly, With regard to our path I can come to only one conclusion - if I act in accordance with my mind, I will be no different from an animal.

That is to say, by taking into consideration my own inner properties and those of the surrounding society, I actually fulfill my natural animate functions in our world and nothing else. I merely find an optimal variant to satisfy my needs, both material and those that seem spiritual to me.

In other words, even my spiritual aspirations are also automatic and they will lead nowhere. This is not freedom. Apparently, freedom lies in aspiring for the Upper world, but not in accordance with our animate, egoistical nature.

Hence, all of our actions in the group with regard to one another should be focused on the principle 'Love thy neighbor as thyself'. Although we are still unable to do that, we should already now think of how wonderful it would be not to submit to the power of egoism. Only in this case can we rise above our nature.

We rise above ourselves to the realm that is really free. We should not demand comprehension and attainment because they fill our egoistical Kli (our mind and heart) with knowledge and sensations. We should stop making such demands because it will mean that we work in accordance with egoistical desire.

On the contrary, we have to make a restriction (Tzimtzum) and say: ' I need nothing of it. I seek what is above it. Let my Kli remain empty; I need to rise above it, defy it. It does not matter what will be inside my Kli both in terms of sensation and knowledge.

If I can stop demanding such fulfillment, I will really win my freedom. Afterwards, we will clearly know what the category of freedom means. In principle, now we can say that being free is being equal to the Creator.

The Creator is in the state of absolute bestowal. We were created by the Light (delight) as a point that appeared from nothingness. We long for this delight and exist only for its reception.

If we can oppose our nature, then we become really free. Our aspiration for freedom or for similarity to the Creator originates in the point of Bina, in our soul. This is the Creator's particle within us that will ultimately make us equal to Him.

Humankind's suffering and constant struggle for freedom also constitute partial actions that lead to the entrance to the spiritual world. This movement may be directed against some regime or suppression and does not matter at what levels it is realized; the aspiration for freedom is always the aspiration for self-realization. In the end, this aspiration should bring man to his ultimate realization - equality to the Creator.

Question: If I should not demand fulfillment in comprehension and sensation, what should I demand?

You should demand an opportunity to exist above this egoistical desire. What does it mean? It is very simple. I want fulfillment (pleasure). I feel it either in my heart or in my mind, or simultaneously in both. However, if I stop demanding it, what should I do? I should ask for a different fulfillment: I want to feel the Creator and I want to feel that I give Him fulfillment. Try to think about it.

It makes no difference that this egoistical desire to feel how I delight Him will remain egoistical. It is egoistical, but with time something very different will sprout from it. This way, you will transcend your own animate demands.

When a person realizes that his desires are imposed on him by his nature (the Creator wants us to suppress His original creation and make ourselves into a Creator), he finds it easier to struggle with himself. He begins to understand that this struggle is not against himself, but against something foreign that is within him. He then perceives his own desires as the Klipa.

What is the difference between our desires and the Klipa? It all depends only on whether we identify ourselves with the desires of our 'I' (the Creator's particle) or with our natural desires.

You erroneously believe that you constitute an indivisible 'I': your nature, body, and aspirations. However, under the influence of the surrounding Light a division into two parts gradually takes place.

While shining upon a person, the surrounding Light starts separating his eternal 'I' (the Creator's particle within him) from his egoism, the so-called 'body', which controls me and, like a radar, constantly mobilizes all of my desires and senses towards receiving more and more.

So first of all, I want to switch off this radar and stop working with it. I wish to be above these desires, in a point that descended from the Creator. This is the first step that a man who aspires for freedom should make.

Question: What freedom can we talk about, if I exchange egoism of the body for egoism of the soul, which is more developed and powerful?

When I say that we should act for the sake of our 'I', one may object that this 'I' is also egoistical. In other words, I want to stop fulfilling my body and start fulfilling my soul. The soul is other egoistical desires that are directed to the Creator. I wish to be similar to Him and reach the level of eternity, perfection, etc. In other words, these desires are even more egoistical.

Why then are they regarded as gaining freedom? In this case, it is freedom from lower desires at the most. You are right. This is a transition to greater egoistical desires that are aimed at the Creator. Later on, you will become free from them too.

When I have desires for the Creator, I will want to enjoy Him, to give Him. Everything necessary for my connection with Him will appear within me. I will already live inside these Creator-oriented desires. I will perceive my existence at this level. These are also egoistical desires, but I can make them higher. I will be able to acquire the right intention for these desires.

In this process we go through three stages:

In other words, man perceives his existence in Kavana (intention) as freedom from all desires but one - the desire for bestowal. This desire is free because you choose it after making a Tzimtzum.

Question: How can we be free from the Creator or from nature, if we receive our powers from Him?

It does not matter where we receive power: from the Creator, nature, or the Light. It is important how I solve the problem of my freedom, how I evaluate myself. It is like a car, I put some gas into the tank, check that all mechanisms are working properly, but I am free to drive it where I like, and hence, it does what I want.

You have to fill it up with fuel, but you realize your freedom. We do not speak about the need for energy and material, but we do speak about programming some action, which is free. This can be achieved with the help of the screen.

Question: When we speak about freedom, do we speak about the choice between various actions or about freedom within one particular action?

Freedom is similarity to the Creator, the ability to be in the same state as He. Being the will to bestow, He does not depend on anything or anyone. The Creator's desire for bestowal is not the result of compulsion. He is free because He needs nothing. He has no desires; therefore His desire to bestow is free.

For example, parents in our world have desire to give, but it is forced. They cannot live without it. In the Creator it is different. We say that He existed before He started creating. That is to say, «the Good One Who Bestows Goodness» is a state that was freely chosen by the Creator.

Therefore, if a person can rise above his egoism and choose a new mode of behavior, he can become absolutely free and equal to the Creator.

There is no other choice. A choice has to be always optimal, i.e., in all circumstances maximal bestowal is the condition for achieving maximal freedom. There is nothing else.

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