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Freedom of Will

We understand now that we are in the power of the four developmental factors. Our essence is everyone's original desire, his part of the common soul, which remains unchanged. We have to achieve complete correction of this part.

The common soul split into many fragments and every one of us constitutes a particle in that common soul. This particle descended down to our world during the descent of the common soul called Adam or Adam Rishon. During its descent this particle degrades and perceives its desires as growing increasingly smaller in quantity and quality.

All the levels that it descends remain within it in the form of Reshimot - registered data. When this particle reaches the lowest level of our world, it receives the basest desire in quality and quantity. Now it reaches so low that it loses all awareness that higher levels exist. Such a state is defined as "man in our world".

While being in this world, in his lowest state, man is characterized by four parameters:

If a person finds an environment that influences him positively, it prompts him to go faster through all necessary stages. By forming a right society, a person stops rushing about and searching here and there. The society helps him to make a short cut in finding his next states, to ascend level after level wasting no time on things that are useless in his spiritual advancement to the ultimate goal.

A person can advance only under the influence of the environment because the two inner parameters are passive. These are man's initial desire (his essence) and the Reshimot (registered data) that were formed during the descent. He has to go through all of them in the opposite direction. However, they are simply registered within him, and it depends on the environment how and at what speed he will realize them.

The Baal HaSulam gives an example of a grain. If we throw it into dry sand, it will not be able to grow - the external conditions will not provide it with vital nutrients. Although it has all necessary parameters for its growth, it will wither and die because these parameters are passive. They require an external constituent - nutrition - with the help of which their optimal qualitative and quantitative development will be guaranteed.

The same applies to man: until he finds a good environment, his development will take various fallacious forms that do not lead to the Goal of creation. These forms will bring him to all kinds of bad states that are so remote from correction and perfection. Eventually, we grow disillusioned with such life and start searching for a better path. In other words, this process is inefficient.

So what should we do to protect ourselves from bad, incorrect development and advance in an optimal way? That is what the Baal HaSulam explains to us.

Protection against the Remaining Three Factors

Man is only an implementing mechanism performing automated actions that are defined by the inner factors established in him and by the outer influence.

If he wants to get out of nature's control, he then must choose to submit himself to the control of a different environment. Being a derivative of these four factors, a person must choose a Teacher, a group, and books which would influence him the right way.

I always observe the laws of my society, which in its turn changes according to its own laws. These laws always influence my inner essence, and elevate me to the level where I have to be.

Thus, I cannot get away from these four factors. All I have to do is choose the only parameter out of four that affects the dynamics of my spiritual advancement. Such a parameter is an environment. Therefore, I have to choose a right society and interact with it so that it will influence me in a most efficient way.

Power of Mind over Body

The human mind is a consequence of life situations, events and circumstances that a person goes through. The correct use of the mind lies in approaching good and withdrawing from harm.

If we knew what is good and what is bad (that is all that exists around us), we would always sort, define, and analyze everything in accordance with its usefulness and harm with regard to the goal I set to myself.

Man's imagination uses the mind in the same way as eyes use a microscope: after discovering harmful microbes, a person keeps away from them. Hence, the problem is how to build such a "microscope" in my present state.

I believe that I see what is good and what is bad for me, but it is only an illusion. It is the same in our world. To see that something is right I need to reach a deeper level than mine. To this end I need a microscope. It will enable me to see what goes on inside; and suddenly I see deadly microbes behind a pretty membrane that are ready to destroy me.

In my advancement I need a "microscope" to see behind all the good and bad influences (regardless of how I perceive them) how they really affect me. In that case, I will look through it and flinch. I will not want to take what looks so outwardly attractive (for I will see how harmful it is). On the contrary, in spite of an unsightly external form of a certain thing, I will choose it because it is useful inside.

So in order to find our bearings in this life, we use such means as joining a group that engages, for example, in losing weight, healthy nutrition, or something else. Such a group helps us to see what is good and what is bad. In other words, it serves as a microscope. I come to the group and they tell me what I should eat and from what I should keep away. They show me videos and pictures; try to impress me with what is inside and what I myself cannot see.

How can I make my group show me what is useful and what is harmful - egoism, altruism, advancement, the Creator's greatness, and so on? How can I create such a group and compel it to influence me in defiance of my natural egoism?

As we said, man's imagination uses the mind as the eyes use a microscope. Thus, a microscope (not sensations) helps a person to avoid harm where microbes, bacteria, and viruses are imperceptible.

This applies to our matters too: we do not feel that egoism is detrimental to us. We do not see that reception is harmful and giving is useful. Our eyes and mind do not perceive it at all.

We see that where the body cannot discern harm or benefit, a need for the mind arises. The mind safeguards the body against harm and pushes it towards good, useful things.

To the extent of this understanding that the mind is a consequence of life experience, a person is ready to accept the wisdom of another (whom he trusts) as a law.

If a person whom I respect and regard as important tells me something that contradicts my own opinion, I can accept his view (if he is really "great") and use his comprehension and attainment as my own.

This resembles a situation, when a person asks for his doctor's advice, and although he understands nothing in medicine he completely trusts the doctor and follows his recommendations. Thus he uses another person's mind, which under the circumstances can be even more efficient that the use of his own.

If we in our world used only what we understand and know, we would still be living in caves. In reality, everything I have today I received from people who accumulated various skills, which they developed to the level of realization and passed the fruits of their knowledge to me.

In our world we constantly rely on and use the knowledge of other people, although it is unattainable for us. Yet, we are not bothered by this fact; we believe that they invent good, useful things and take advantage of them.

How then can we expose ourselves to the group's influence with regard to the most important things? How can I accept their knowledge and convictions and use it as if I myself realized that everything they say is true and that is exactly what should be done? That is the real problem.

We see that all of it is similar to what happens in our world. There is nothing supernatural in it, save for one thing - we have to act against our nature.

Therefore, special relations should be built in a Kabbalistic group. They should be different from the relations among people who want to lose weight. In an ordinary group my egoism will help me to achieve what I want. In our case it is the opposite: I will have to give it up completely. Hence, my relations with the group differ from what happens in other groups in our world.

Question: You say: "Man's imagination uses the mind as the eyes use a microscope." What does it mean, "imagination"?

I have a mind and I can see, understand, feel, try, and research. As a result, I obtain some data, which makes up a sequence of facts within me. I can act with their help. My egoism, my desire (i.e., my body), my essence understands this data. If I touch fire or jump from the fifth floor, I feel pain. In this way a person accumulates various data. This is called the mind.

Besides, there is also imagination. Imagination is when the impressions that did not go through me and were not imprinted in my egoism can still be absorbed and used as if they were within me.

In other words, I can take advantage of other people's experience (see things through the 'microscope') as if it is my own. Imagination is an additional property that enriches the mind. Animals have no imagination.

Two Ways of Ruling

There are two ways of divine ruling that guarantee man's success in achieving the purpose of creation:

1. The path of suffering.
2. The path of Torah or Kabbalah.

The path of Kabbalah calls upon us to rely on the minds of Kabbalists, who already attained the Purpose of creation, as on our own life experience. I lack a microscope to see my next level and how my today's actions lead me to it. My future state is concealed from me.

I have no other indicator, no other opportunity but to rely on the superior, greater mind who is already at the higher level. When he tells me about it, he gives me additional knowledge, a microscope. I cannot yet see the higher level. If I did, I would selfishly desire it and could never get rid of my egoism.

The problem is that the recommendations that Kabbalists give me to enable me to achieve the higher level are anti-egoistical; they are directed against my desire. I will be able to follow them only if I receive a spiritual source of vital energy (the Upper Light, the sensation of the Creator and His greatness) in addition to their advice.

In our world I have a group which explains to me what is good and what is bad (e.g., smoking or being overweight). The group plays the role of a microscope for me. Consequently, since I am made of egoistical desire, I do not have to look for strength to fulfill the group's recommendations.

However, in our advancement to the goal it is not quite the same and it creates problems. Kabbalists tell me what the higher level is like, how I can reach it, and what the realization of evil is in my present state. If I trust Kabbalists and begin following their example, then I obtain the data that shows me for what I have to aspire. So we need to have faith in our teachers.

However, in order to realize their advice, I have to use some special powers. To convince me to give up smoking the group demonstrates the horrible consequences of this bad habit and my egoism helps me to quit. However, my egoism will not help me to follow Kabbalists' advice.

Thus, besides my faith in Kabbalists I have to ask the Creator to give me power to do what they tell me. They offer me an unnatural program of correction of my nature, and I have to receive strength from the Creator to realize it.

That is where the problem lies. There is my environment (a group, books, and a teacher), the Creator and I. I realize what my environment tells me. The Creator provides me with strength to rise and become similar to Him.

Here a person enters the state of duality: the group or the Creator? In fact, this is not duality; it is the same, but in man's perception it splits because the group constitutes the realization of the demonstrated next level. The Creator is the quality of that level.

Question: I have my sensations, my mind, and someone "great" in whom I believe. I neither understand His feelings nor can I feel what He feels. How and where do we acquire faith that the "great" one speaks the truth? Does it come through the mind or through feelings?

We are the Kelim joined in one common system called "Adam." Only if people around me speak about something that allegedly exists (this may be completely wrong), will I accept their influence as genuinely true.

This is because together with them I am a part of the common Kli. Their opinions, desires, and thoughts influence me whether I want it or not. We all belong to the same system. I will feel what they want me to feel. This "brainwashing" constantly happens in our group.

Question: Man has two types of Reshimot - desires of the heart and desires of a point in the heart. The environment determines what type of Reshimot will manifest within a person. How does it relate to the fact that the chain of Reshimot is strictly defined?

We consist of two parts, of two types of Reshimot. One type refers to various fulfillments of our world, the second type relates to the fulfillment with the Upper Light. What Reshimot (this world or spiritual) I will prefer to realize depends on the group to which I belong.

I want to fulfill both types of Reshimot. Everything depends only on the proportion between them. In principle, it is incorrect to think that the realization of this world's desires is contrary to the realization of the Reshimot of spiritual development. In the process of his spiritual development a person falls into the Reshimot of this world. He craves for bodily pleasures or suddenly wants money, knowledge, etc.

In other words, man alternately enters into all of these desires. They are not contradictory because they dress one another, and thanks to the attainment of all the earthly desires, man ascends and feels the growing aspiration for the Creator.

It would be wrong to think that after I have finished working with all of my desires in this world, I become ready to ascend to the Upper world. In our world all of these desires are interconnected and they act in certain combinations within us.

Similarly, a Kabbalist simultaneously exists in the Upper world and in the body. By body we imply desires of this level, which he uses anyway. For example, he likes good cuisine and enjoys many other things. These are two shells within us, and one does not annul the other.

The path of Kabbalah calls upon us to trust the mind of Kabbalists, who already attained the Purpose of creation. Yet, how can I be sure that the mind on which I intend to rely tells me the truth?

On the other hand, unless I use the mind of a wise man (as I would follow the doctor's advice), I will condemn myself to a lengthy path of suffering. In this way, a sick person refuses to follow his physician's advice and begins studying medicine. If he is seriously ill, he may die well before he learns how to cure himself.

That is how the path of suffering compares to the path of Kabbalah. A person who does not believe in the wisdom that Kabbalah offers him may try to attain it by himself. In the end, he will come to the same conclusions, but after going through much suffering. At the same time, there is a method that considerably speeds up the process of correction, enables a person to feel the evil and move away from it. This can be achieved with the help of a good environment that generates right thoughts and actions.

A question arises: "If I initially choose a good environment, books, etc., don't I rob myself of an opportunity to experience all bad states? Isn't it said that I have to go through all the Reshimot?"

As a matter of fact, a person is obliged to go through all of his Reshimot. The difference lies in the way he does it: in Light or in darkness. In our world it resembles the difference between an air-plane flight and a trip on a train.

A person can fall into depression, feel helpless or sick and remain in this condition for a long time while being unable to get out of it. Suddenly, a doctor or some other person appears and in a few minutes pulls him out of this "pit."

This, however, does not mean that he will never feel bad in the future. He will go through such states, but it will be a quick, conscious process. This is similar to a person who suffers unknowingly and suddenly receives information about the cause of his suffering and can research it. Now he understands how he can get rid of his pain.

Going quickly through such states gives a person an understanding of what happens to him and what he should do. We all go through a variety of such states.

So how can we make our states quick and efficient? All we have to do is follow the advice of Kabbalists. Do not think that you will skip some sensations. You will not, but you will see them through the ray of Light and will go through them consciously and quickly. Any other development will be slow and based on egoism, which, like a stubborn donkey, will stand still on the road until it receives two hundred blows before making a step forward.

However, we do not need to stand and receive hundreds of blows. Instead, we can realize the cause-and-effect connection and power that compel us to pass from one state into another under the influence of contrast between me and the Light. The result will be the same. I will feel two hundred blows anyway, but it will take me a moment to realize them and I will feel them not as suffering, but as joy.

Otherwise, the passage from one level to another has to be based on the law of negation of the negation. I am obliged to make sure that my present state is evil; only then will I be able to pass to the next one.

Therefore, the only thing we receive from the group is the realization of evil, the understanding that we are sick and cannot remain in the same condition. We already saw all the viruses through the microscope, and unless we start correcting ourselves, terrible things will happen. That is the impression that I have to receive from the group. Everything necessary for my advancement is prepared within me.

Thus, everything depends on the environment, which plays the role of a microscope or a gauge.

Following the Majority

Wherever there is a dispute between the individual and the majority, we have to make a decision in accordance with the majority's will. That is what Kabbalists instruct us to do.

However, this law retards the progress of humankind because the majority always lags behind the developed minority. Since nature obliged us to live in a society, we have to observe all social laws, or else nature will call us to account regardless of whether we understand its laws or not. Hence, the law that demands "to follow the majority" is one of nature's laws. While creating us, nature incorporated this law within us together with an understanding that its observance guarantees our optimal development. We should adhere to it regardless of what we may think about it.

We are in a state, when we cannot assess the universal law of nature. Kabbalists who attained it describe it for us. If we accept it, we sort of look at the core of the universe through the microscope and act correctly. It is as if I am standing on a giant's head, see very far ahead and know what to do.

This law is meant to develop our realization that:

This is the only means to pass to love for the Creator.

However, the majority has no right to abolish the opinion of the individual in his relations with the Creator. Everyone is free to act as he sees fit. That is the meaning of personal freedom. That is to say, man's relations with the Creator are regulated by himself, whereas all the other laws of behavior are determined by the rule of "following the majority."

Question: What is the difference between a Kabbalistic group and a group of people who want to lose weight?

They are similar. When I come to the group, I need to get an impression that my natural egoistical desire harms my health and pushes me towards death. This is what happens in all diet groups. This applies to us as well because they too work on the realization of the group's importance. Unless I respect the group members and instructors, I will not be able to be impressed by them. It means that actually I do not join the group. These people may play the role of a microscope, but it will not magnify sufficiently, hence I will not receive from them what I need.

When will the microscope magnification be sufficient to compel me to act? When the group's opinion becomes two million times more important than my own. This means that my friends enlarge the picture for me by two million times as compared with the picture I can see, and will not be able to ignore it.

Therefore, my work is to glorify the group and contribute to it in order to be influenced by it. This microscope is the most important thing. The group itself does not have to be in the spiritual; it should not draw some spiritual picture for me. It should only demonstrate the evil of my present state and the Creator's greatness, which we in our condition perceive as the property of bestowal.

Both my impression from the group and the quality of the microscope that it gives me (to see egoism as evil and the Purpose of creation as the ultimate good) depend on the connection between me and the group.

The Baal HaSulam writes: "Follow the majority." This means that I have to create an optimal majority and enter it. This is not unnatural because, whether I want it or not, I am affected by the law that exists in the human society.

Question: What is a microscope - the Ohr Makif or the group?

A microscope is the group's opinion as compared to mine.

Question: How can the group enable me to realize evil: through punishment, criticism, or by talking about the importance of the goal? What is the method of compelling me to realize the evil of my state?

The method that enables me to feel the fallaciousness of my state should be positive. The group should not sit and cry over its poor condition. On the contrary, it should have fun and be happy because the illness was detected and the remedy found for passing to the next healthier state.

We must always look at the positive side because negativity does not provide strength to move (it only leads to depression). We should always reveal our present state in the Light; not by blows from behind, but by attraction to the goal, to the Creator.

If the group is cheerfully advancing towards the Purpose of creation, it gives the right direction and energy to all of its members. It teaches them how to advance by way of Light, not suffering.

Question: Can we accelerate man's painless advancement with the help of envy, passions and honor?

These are completely different movements within a person.

Man has animate, social, and spiritual desires. We analyze all of them (their usefulness or harm) only with regard to the group. Therefore, they are differentiated neither by their intensity nor by the way man uses them, but only by their usefulness or harm with respect to the group. Some very base animate desire may be quite harmless, whereas aspirations for power and honor can be very detrimental. So the problem exists only with regard to the group.

Question: How can I glorify the group? Does it have to manifest in actions or in thoughts?

Glorifying the group should manifest in man's inner readiness to receive its ideal from it. There is nothing else to it.

Question: Is there any outward manifestation of it?

Outwardly it manifests in the following way: you begin looking at your friends, expecting what they will tell you and "swallowing" it and completely disregarding your own opinion. This is called trust, faith, Arvut ("mutual guarantee"); that is all we need.

The Law of Society States: the Minority Must Submit to the Majority

On what grounds, though, did the majority undertake the right to suppress an individual's personal freedom? On the face of it, it is nothing else but constraint.

Since nature compelled us to live in a society, it goes without saying that each of its members is obliged to serve the society, take care of it and contribute to its prosperity. This is impossible unless the law of "submission" is observed, i.e. everyone must obey the law accepted in his society.

But it is quite clear that in all the cases, when the society's material interests are not infringed on, the majority has no right to limit an individual's freedom in any form. Those who do so are criminals preferring force to justice, because in this case nature does not compel man to submit to the majority's will.

What are the precise boundaries that indicate where the individual should submit to the will of society and where he should not. The Baal HaSulam writes about it in the next chapter. He says that in spirituality another law is in effect: "the majority follows the individual. That is to say, in the framework of our world we all have to submit to the society's ruling, whereas in the spiritual world the masses have to follow the individual.

This originates from the general law of the Ohrot and Kelim. The same laws govern in the world of Infinity and in our world. Man evolves in accordance with his egoistical desire and its fulfillment. At the same time, during the spiritual ascent a different law comes forward; it is based on the screen, not on desire.

Therefore, there is a difference in how a person develops:

I understand that there is a certain feeling that we withhold, something that can be discussed in this extremely profound text. In principle, this article should be approached both through feelings and through the mind. The student can use drawings and diagrams of the general scheme of the universe. This will help him to understand the material better

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