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Michael Laitman, PhD

Chapter 5. Freedom of Will

The concept of freedom determines our whole life. Animals in captivity usually develop ill health and may even die – a sure sign that nature disagrees with any kind of subjugation. It is not by chance that for centuries humanity engaged in bloodshed and battles to obtain a certain measure of freedom.

Even so, we have a rather vague idea about freedom and independence. We assume that everyone has an inner need for freedom and independence, and that they are available to us at will. But if we examine our actions carefully, we will discover that we act compulsively and that we have no free will at all.

Such a statement requires explaining: Externally, a human being is guided by two reins: pleasure or pain (also defined as “happiness” or “suffering”).

Animals have no free choice. Humankind’s advantage over animals is that people consciously prefer to endure pain if they believe that pleasure awaits at its end. Thus, a sick person agrees to a painful operation, trusting that this will improve his or her health.

However, this choice is merely a pragmatic calculation in which one compares future pleasure to present pain. In other words, this calculation is a simple mathematical operation in which the amount of suffering is subtracted from the future pleasure, and the difference dictates the choice. If the achieved pleasure is less than the anticipated pleasure, a person suffers, instead of feeling joy.

The force of attraction to delight and retraction from pain is the only force that controls humans, animals, and even the vegetative. All living creatures at all stages and levels of life are governed by it; hence, in that sense there is no difference between them, since free will does not depend on intelligence.

Furthermore, even the selection of the type of pleasure is mandatory and does not depend of one’s free choice. Instead, our choices are dictated by society’s norms and tastes, not by one’s free choice. It follows that there is no such thing as an independent individual who has personal freedom of action.

People who believe in Upper Governance expect reward or punishment for their actions in the next world. Atheists expect it in this world. Because they expect reward or punishment for their actions, they think that they have freedom of choice.

The root of this phenomenon lies in the law of cause and effect that influences nature as a whole and every individual in particular. In other words, all four kinds of Creation – inanimate, vegetative, animate, and human – are continually influenced by the law of causality and purpose. Their every state is determined by the influence of external causes with regard to the predetermined goal chosen by them, which is the future state.

Every object in the world is constantly developing. This implies that every object constantly abandons previous forms and acquires new ones under the influence of four factors:

  1. Origin

  2. Evolution that stems from its own nature and is therefore invariable

  3. Evolution that changes under the influence of external factors

  4. Evolution and transformation of external factors

The first factor is the origin or the primary matter, its previous form. Since every object constantly changes form, each previous form is defined as “primary” with regard to the subsequent form. The inner properties depend solely on the origin, determine the subsequent form, and constitute its main factor, its individual information, gene or property.

The second factor is the order of cause-and-effect development that depends on the origin of the object. This order does not change. An example is a grain of wheat that decays in the soil and, as a result, produces a new shoot. The wheat grain loses its original form, meaning it completely disappears and acquires a new form of a shoot that will produce a new initial form, a wheat grain, as such is its origin. Only the number of grains, and possibly their quality (size and taste) may change. In other words, one can observe the cause-and-effect order where everything depends on the origin of the object.

The third factor is the cause-and-effect connection in the primary matter, which changes its properties after contact with external forces. Consequently, the quantity and quality of the grain change because additional factors (soil, water, sun) appear to complement the properties of the primary matter.

Since the force of the origin prevails over the additional factors, the changes may modify the grain’s quality, but not the species itself, such as turning a wheat grain into a barley grain. In other words, like the second factor, the third factor is the object’s inner factor, but unlike the second, it can change qualitatively and quantitatively.

The fourth factor is the cause-and-effect connection between the forces that act on the outside, such as chance, the elements of nature, and neighbors. For the most part, these four factors together influence every individual object.

The first factor (origin) is fundamental for us because we are creations of our parents. As their offspring, we (in a sense) are their copies; i.e., almost all the attributes of the parents and grandparents manifest themselves in their children. The concepts and knowledge acquired by the ancestors manifest in the descendants as habits and properties, even at an unconscious level. The concealed forces of heredity drive all of the descendants’ actions and are passed from generation to generation.

This gives rise to various inclinations that can be observed in people: faith, criticism, material comforts, stinginess, or modesty. None of them is an acquired property; rather, they are a heritage of close and distant ancestors registered in the offspring’s brain.

Since we automatically inherit the acquired properties of our ancestors, these properties resemble a grain that loses its form in the soil. Yet, some of our acquired properties manifest within us in an opposite way.

Because primary matter manifests in forces without external form, this matter may carry both positive and negative properties.

The three other factors influence us as well. The order of causes and their consequences that ensue from one’s origin (the 2nd factor) is invariable. A grain decays under the influence of the environment and gradually changes its form until a new grain manifests. In other words, the first factor acquires the form of primary matter; the difference between the previous plant and the new shoot manifests only in quantity and quality.

By coming to this world, a person falls under the influence of society against his or her will and takes in society’s character and properties. Thus, one’s hereditary inclinations are transformed under the influence of society.

The third factor is based on the influence of the environment. Every one of us knows how our tastes and views can sometimes be reversed under the influence of society. Nothing like that can occur at the inanimate, vegetative, or animate levels of nature; this can happen only with humans.

The fourth factor is the direct and indirect influence of negative external factors (troubles and anxiety) that have nothing to do with the consecutive order of development of the primary matter.

All our thoughts and actions depend on these four factors and dictate our entire way of life. Just like clay in the hands of the potter, we are under the influence of these four factors. We therefore see that there is no freedom of desire, that everything depends solely on the interaction between these four factors, and that we can have no control. No scientific theory answers how the spiritual governs matter from within, and where or what mediates between the body and the soul.

Kabbalah says that all that was ever created in all the worlds consists only of the Light and the vessel it fills. The only creation is the vessel that wishes to receive the Light coming directly from the Creator. This will to receive the Light that brings life and pleasure to the vessel is both the spiritual and the corporeal substance, depending on one’s intensity of desire.

The differences in nature, quality, and quantity among all created beings lie only in the extent of this desire, which is accordingly filled with the Light coming from the life-giving Creator.

All that separates one object from another and produces colors, substances, waves, and other differentiating factors results from the capacity of the will to receive, and therefore, of the amount of Light that fills it. In other words, a desire of one size yields the form of a mineral; different sizes of desires form liquids, colors, or waves. Everything depends on the position on the scale of desire, while the amount of Light that embraces us and all the worlds is equal and invariable.

Now we can clarify the question about freedom of the individual. Since we already understand that an individual consists of a will to receive a certain quantity of the Creator’s Light, all the traits peculiar to that desire depend solely on the intensity of this desire, on the force of the attraction of the Light.

The attraction force we usually call “ego” compels us to struggle for our existence. If we destroy one of the ego’s desires or aspirations, we deny it the opportunity to use its potential “vessel,” the fulfillment of which is its Creator-given right.

We acquire all our ideas through the influence of our environment, for a grain develops only in its soil, in the environment that suits it. Hence, the only choice we have in life is the choice of our society, our circle of friends. By changing our environment, we necessarily change our views because an individual is merely a copy, a product of his or her society.

People who realize this conclude that one has no freedom of will because one is a product of society and one’s thought does not manage one’s body. Rather, the external information is stored in the brain’s memory; and like a mirror, the brain merely reflects everything that occurs in the environment.

Our origin is our basic, primary material. We inherit our aspirations and inclinations, and this inheritance is the only thing that distinguishes one person from another. Everyone is influenced differently by society; this is why we will never find two identical people.

Know that this primary material is the individual’s true wealth, and one should not try to modify it because, by developing one’s unique traits, a person becomes a personality.

Therefore, a person who does away with even a single impulse or aspiration creates emptiness in the world; this impulse or aspiration will never be repeated in any other body. From this we see what a crime “civilized nations” commit by forcing their culture on other nations and by destroying their foundations.

Yet, is it possible to ensure complete individual freedom in a society? Clearly, to function normally, society must impose its laws, restrictions, and norms on individuals. It follows that one is in a constant struggle with one’s society. Here arises an even sharper point: if the majority has the right to dictate society’s rules, and the masses are always less developed than the most developed persons in society, this would create regression instead of progress.

If a society establishes its laws in accordance with spiritual laws, those who observe them do not lose an opportunity as an individual to merge with the Creator. This is because these laws are the natural laws of governance over the world and society. If a society creates its own laws, which contradict the laws of the spiritual nature, those who observe spiritual laws will achieve their maximum development.

According to the purposeful governance, we must observe the laws of nature so that individuals and society will develop in the right direction. Kabbalah instructs that we make all decisions according to society’s opinion. Kabbalah shows us that in daily life we must accept the opinion of the majority, and in spiritual development we must follow the opinion of developed individuals.

This rule is called the “natural law of governance.” All the rules and laws of the science of Kabbalah comprise the laws of nature’s governance. While studying the interconnections between the laws that influence our world from Above downward through Kabbalah, it becomes clear that the law of the majority’s influence in the society is a natural one.

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