Is there free 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”.
What exactly can we influence in our life? Do we possess enough
freedom to change our destiny?
Why can’t we naturally obtain this wisdom?
Why, in spite of the fact that our nature is based on laziness and
healthy egoism (desire to receive the maximum through minimal
effort), unlike animals, do we perform thoughtless and ineffective
Perhaps we act, where everything is pre-programmed, and our role
must 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 change something?
Small children act unwisely, because their development occurs
unconsciously, instinctively. An adult defines a goal, and the will
to achieve that goal provides him with energy.
Evidently, 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 can’t.
Nature doesn’t inform us in which of our actions we are really free.
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 and in ourselves. Nature wants to confuse and
disorient us regarding how we should live on? Then we would stop and
determine what we can really influ-ence.
The essence of freedom
Generally speaking, freedom may be referred to as the law of nature,
which runs through all aspects of life. We see how animals suffer in
captivity. It testifies to nature’s protest against any form of
enslavement. Mankind fought in wars for hundreds of years until it
achieved some de-gree of personal freedom.
In any case, our idea of freedom is extremely vague, and if we delve
deeper into it, almost nothing will be left of it. Before we demand
personal freedom, we should presume each person aspires to it. First
we need to make sure this or that person can exercise his free will.
Our life is between pleasure and suffering
If we analyze man’s actions, we’ll discover that none of them are
free. Both his inner nature and outer circumstances compel him to
act according to an algorithm of behavior rooted in him.
Nature placed us between pleasure and suffering, and we are not free
to choose suffering or give up pleasure. With regard to animals man
has the advantage of being able to see the distant goal, therefore
he can agree to a certain amount of sufferings anticipating the
In fact, it’s nothing but a calculation, when, seeing the
prospective benefit, we consent to suffer for the sake of possible
pleasure. We agree to a surgical operation, even pay a lot of money
for it; we are ready to work hard to acquire a good well-paying
profession. Everything boils down to our reckoning, when we subtract
suffering from the expected pleasure and receive a certain positive
This is the way we are designed. Those, who seem reckless,
imprudent, self-sacrificing romantics are actually no more than
calculating people, for whom the past manifests as the pre-sent so
obviously that they are ready to accept anguish unusual for others,
which we take as a heroic feat.
But in fact, even in this case our body makes a conscious or
subconscious calculation. Psychologists know that each man’s
priorities may be changed so that a coward will turn into a hero.
The future may be so elevated in man’s eyes that he will agree to
any kind of destitution for the sake of it.
From this it follows that there is no difference between man and
animals; and if so, free and intelligent choice doesn’t exist.
Who determines our pleasures?
Not only have we hardly any free choice, but the character of
pleasure is not our prerogative either. It doesn’t happen according
to our free will, but is dictated by other people’s desires. We
don’t 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
We prefer to behave simpler desires without burdening ourselves too
much, but our entire life is constrained by manners accepted as the
norm in society, which turn into the laws of human behavior and
existence. If this is so, where is our free will then? It turns out
that none of our ac-tions are rewarded or punished.
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.
Each created being is determined by four factors:
1. The basis is a primary material of a particular being, from which
it emerged. The un-changing properties of a basis are the order of
its development, i.e. a decaying wheat grain calls forth a new
sprout of the same kind. A grain rots – its outer form completely
disappears, similar to our body, which disintegrates in the ground.
However, the basis remains and gives birth to a new shoot, like our
soul that compels a new body to be born so as to dress in it.
2. The unchanging properties of the basis. The basis (in our case a
wheat grain) will never take the form of other cereals, say, barley,
but only the previous form of wheat, which it lost. Depending on the
environment (soil, water, fertilizing and the sun), certain
quantitative and qualitative changes of the sprout are possible, but
the form of wheat (i.e. the original essence) undergoes no changes
3. The properties that change under the influence of the outer
forces. Affected by external factors the outward form of the essence
goes through qualitative changes – a grain remains a grain, but its
outer shape gets transformed in accordance with the environmental
conditions. Ad-ditional external factors joined with the essence and
together they generated a new quality under the influence of the
environment. This may be the sun, soil, fertilizers or water
relative to a grain, or a society, a group, books and a teacher with
regard to man.
4. Changes in the outer forces. Man needs the surroundings that
develop and constantly af-fect his development. While evolving, man
in turn influences his surroundings, compelling it to develop. Thus
they develop simultaneously together.
These four factors determine the state of each created being. Even
if man spends all his time in research, he will not be able to
change or add anything to what the four factors include. Whatever we
think or do exists within these four factors. Any addition will be
purely quanti-tative, whereas qualitatively it will remain the same.
These factors forcefully determine our character and way of
1. Man cannot change his essence.
2. He cannot change the laws according to which his essence gets
3. He cannot change the laws of transformation of his inner
properties as a result of the outer influence.
4. The surroundings, which man totally depends on, can be changed!
Being able to influence his surroundings now, man determines his
future state. The only fac-tors his surroundings can affect are the
speed and the quality of man’s advancement. He may either live
through pain, fear, anguish and endless bloody conflicts along the
way or move forward quietly and comfortably, because man himself
aspires to the goal. That is why the Kabbalists urge us to open
educational centers so as to form groups – the ideal surroundings
for all those, who wish to achieve the purpose of creation.
Regardless of the fact that we can’t determine our basis, who and
how to be born, we can influence these first three factors by
choosing our surroundings, i.e. friends, books and teachers.
However, having chosen the environment, we let it shape our future
Initially there is an opportunity to freely choose such teachers,
books and friends that will inspire good thoughts. Unless man does
that, he will naturally find himself in bad surroundings reading
useless books (there are plenty of them and they are much more
pleasant), and, as a re-sult, will definitely receive a poor
education and fail to act correctly in life.
From this it follows that reward or punishment is sent to man not
for his bad thoughts or actions, in which he has no free choice, but
for not choosing a good environment, since here man undoubtedly has
an opportunity to freely choose. Man should be judged and punished
so that he would see: he is not judged for his misdeeds, but for
choosing the wrong environment.
Hence, the person, who makes an effort and each time to choose a
better environment, succeeds – not for his good thoughts, but for
his persistence in improving his surroundings that lead to these
good thoughts. Such a person is awarded with a better, more advanced
The Book of Zohar gives an example about a poor wise man, who was
invited to move to a rich man’s house. He refused saying: “On no
condition will I settle in a place with no sages around!” – “But you
are the greatest sage of the generation!” – exclaimed the rich man.
– “Who else will you learn from?” The wise man replied: “Even the
greatest sage will turn into ignora-mus, if he surrounds himself
with stupid people”.
Hence, we should follow the well-known advice: “Make yourself a
Teacher, buy yourself a friend”. In other words, we must create our
own environment, because only this factor may lead us to success.
Having chosen our surroundings, we become totally dependent on it,
like clay in a sculptor’s hands.
We are all captives of our egoistic nature. Freeing ourselves means
to overstep the limits of our world and enter the upper reality.
Since we are entirely in this world’s grip, we can get free only if,
in spite of our natural egoistic environment, we artificially
surround ourselves with people, who share our views and aspirations,
and fall under the power of the envi-ronment ruled by the laws of
the upper world. Freeing ourselves from the egoistic bonds and
revealing the property of bestowal is our realization of free will.
Protection against the remaining three factors
Man automatically acts under the influence of the internal and
external factors, just following their commands.
If he wishes to get out of nature’s control, man has to expose
himself to the influence of the environment he chose. He should
choose a Teacher, a group and books, so that they would dictate him
what to do, since he is always a derivation of the four parameters.
Power of mind over body
Upon discovering that man’s mind is a result of life experience, we
may conclude that the mind has no power over the body, because it is
a reflection of circumstances and events of man’s life; the power to
make the body move, direct it to good things and keep it away from
However, man’s imagination uses the mind the way eyes use a
microscope. Having discov-ered tiny harmful organisms with the help
of a microscope, man began to distance himself from them. Thus a
microscope (not man’s sensations) allows him to avoid harmful
influence (mi-crobes, bacteria, viruses), where it isn’t felt.
We see that in cases, when the body can’t detect harm or benefit,
the mind becomes relevant and has complete control over the body
allowing it to stay away from bad things and stick to good things.
Understanding that the mind is a result of life experience, man is
ready to accept somebody else’s mind and wisdom as the law, if he
trusts that person.
It resembles a situation, when man asks for the doctor’s advice and,
relying on the doctor’s mind and experience, he follows it, despite
the fact that he himself knows nothing about medi-cine. Thus he uses
other people’s minds, which helps no less than his own mind.
Two ways of ruling
There are two ways of divine ruling that guarantee man’s success in
achieving the purpose of creation:
1) The way of suffering.
2) The way of Kabbalah.
The way of Kabbalah consists in relying on the minds of those who
already attained the ul-timate goal, as if it was our own life
experience. But how can I be sure that the mind I put my faith in is
true? On the other hand, if I don’t use the wise mind the way I
follow the physician’s advice, I condemn myself to a long way of
suffering, like a sick man, who refuses to follow his doctor’s
instructions and starts learning medicine, unaware that he may die
long before he has some idea of it.
Such is the way of suffering in comparison with the way of Kabbalah.
He, who has no faith in the wisdom of Kabbalah, may try to
independently attain this wisdom by going through life troubles,
whereas there is experience, which tremendously accelerates the
process, allows devel-oping the sensation of realization of evil not
by his own choice, but through the efforts made for acquiring a good
Following the majority
Wherever there is a conflict between the majority and an individual,
we must take a decision in accordance with the majority’s will.
However, this law causes mankind’s regression, since masses are in
retrograde, while the most developed are always a minority.
Nevertheless, since nature placed us in a society, we are obliged to
observe all social laws, otherwise nature will punish us, regardless
of whether we understand its laws or not. Hence, the law of communal
living is considered one of nature’s laws and we must observe it
with great caution.
This law must develop realization of: self-love as evil and love for
others as good, because this is the only way to loving the Creator.
However, the majority has no right to suppress an individual’s
opinion in his relations with the Creator, and everyone is free to
do what he believes to be right. This is what his personal freedom
is all about, i.e. man’s relations with the Creator are regulated by
himself, whereas other laws of behav-ior are dictated by the rule
“follow the majority”.
The law of society states: the minority must submit to the
On what grounds, though, did the majority undertake the right to
suppress an individual’s per-sonal 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 mem-bers 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 in-fringed 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.
In any generation individuals are more developed than the masses. If
the society that began to develop according to nature’s laws
realizes the necessity to be saved from sufferings, it must submit
to an individual and follow his instructions.
Thus, whatever refers to the spiritual development, the majority’s
right turns into its duty to follow an individual, i.e. a
highly-evolved personality. Such advanced and educated people make
up an insignificant part of society; hence all achievements and
breakthroughs in the spiritual sphere are determined by the
From this it follows that the society must carefully preserve such
people’s ideas. The society should be aware of the fact that its
salvation is not in the hands of the ruling majority, but rests with
the enlightened individuals.
Accumulating experience, mankind gradually comes to conclusion that,
in spite of all its efforts to change the course of history and the
development of society, life gets its own way, and everything
happens according to a scenario that does not depend on us. So are
we doomed by fate?
The study of the universe by using the Kabbalistic method reveals
that man’s essence consists of three parts:
- the first - animal - part, which is expressed in bodily desires
for food, sex, family, home, present in all people regardless of
- the second – human – part, expressed in desires for wealth, honor
(fame, power), knowl-edge, in which we are dependent on the society;
- the third – spiritual – part, which creates in us an aspiration
for the upper world (it appears out of a sensation of death,
emptiness in life, ignorance of the source of existence).
Man is born in this world so as to discover the upper realm in the
course of his life. Then he exists in both worlds and, after his
body dies, feels the spiritual world as much as he could feel it
while living in his physical body. If man failed to enter the
spiritual world during his lifetime, his soul descends to this world
again, incarnates in a new biological body with the same purpose.
The soul can reveal the upper world only while being in a physical
From this it becomes clear that
- this entire world and our existence in it are designed only to
help us discover the upper world;
- the first (animal) and the second (human) parts do not exist in us
by themselves, their role is determined by how much they contribute
to the realization of the third (spiritual) part, i.e. how they
assist us in fulfilling our mission, which consists of the
revelation of the spiritual realm while living in this world. Man’s
actions are evaluated only to the extent of their connection with
spiritual advancement, because it is the spiritual part that has to
- the first and second parts in us do not change by themselves. Nor
do they depend on our desires. Realization of the third (spiritual)
part determines their transformations.
- our actions related to the first and the second parts are not
free, they are programmed by nature and make up a rigid frame of our
structure. By choosing how to develop spiritually we determine our
states in both the first and the second (animal and human) parts,
and definitely in the third.
- By declining to perform futile and senseless acts related to our
animal and human de-sires, and concentrating all efforts on the
revelation of the upper reality, man acquires the ability to control
everything in this world (in both 1st and 2nd parts). In other
words, the road to ruling over this world is attainable through the
upper world, since all sig-nals; all events descend from above until
they take their final form in this world.
This article demonstrates how pre-determined all man’s actions and
states in this world are; all but one, which determines everything
else – the aspiration to the upper world, to its revela-tion, to
mastering the laws of the Divine Providence.