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The Truth about Free Will According to the Wisdom of Kabbalah

Updated on October 7, 2018

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Viktor Frankl

I sit in a fine food restaurant examining the menu and wine list. After much consideration I finally choose. And I do so freely. Yet, underlying the act of eating is the need to survive and the fact is that if I do not eat, I will die. I am building a new house and for months engage in choosing among floor plans, counter tops, flooring, fixtures and so on. The fact that I require shelter in order to survive, however, is not a choice.

Food and shelter, as well as sex, are basic needs required for individual survival and for the survival of humankind. If you think about it for a few moments, you will realize that everything we do in life is directed toward staying alive.

So… how many of our choices are really done freely? Only one.

Here's the Rest of the Story

It begins with creation itself. The nature of the upper force is to bestow. In order to manifest its giving nature, it created an opposite force called the will to receive. This was the only act of creation, making something out of nothing. A relationship between giver and receiver ensued and the end result was the shattering of what was the common soul. Thus, we find ourselves in this form called matter, a coarsening of the vibrational energy of the giver. It is in this form, in this lifetime, walking the path of the wisdom of Kabbalah, that we learn the method for reconnecting all the broken pieces of the soul.

During the billions of years since the Big Bang four levels of existence have emerged, one after the other. The inanimate, vegetative and animal came first, then mankind. We evolved here only after everything was prepared for us to ensure our survival on this planet in a state of mutual guarantee. In Kabbalah, these levels are called still, vegetative, animate and speaking (SVAS).

Represented on a triangle the evolution of the levels of existence looks something like this. The time frames shorten as each level emerges.

Humanity’s existence on the planet is but a blip on the timeline of evolution, but our influence upon the levels below is profound. As humans we have more advanced qualities. We may act against the will of the system. We are not confined to contemporaries like the vegetative, but are independent. We feel each other so are able to celebrate and regret with others, to care for or reject them, to remember the past and plan for the future. Just as with each succeeding level, we hold within ourselves all the elements of those life forms that preceded us. In other words, the whole world is inside us, individually and collectively!

This reality of our inextricable interconnection with all of nature endows upon us the profound responsibility to care for the system that sustains us.

The Two Sides of Ego

The vessel that was created in the thought of creation is called the will to receive. This was a state of one soul in relation to the Creator, with no boundaries on that connection. There was no choice here. That state was lowered through a number of phases by the force of the development of desire during which the exquisite energy of the Creator’s total influence coarsened until matter appeared. The purpose of this diminution is so that we become independent, in other words, that we freely choose to connect together all the pieces of the broken soul and again become absorbed in the Creator. But how, existing in this state of matter that is opposite to the Creator, even know that this is our purpose?

Instilled within each fragment of the soul is a tiny replication of the Creator, called the point in the heart, which causes a yearning inside us for something more. And along with the descent into matter came the human ego. It is the power that has developed mankind and it is the tool with which we gain our independence.

Like It or Not, We Are All Cogwheels

Free will does not exist on the levels of inanimate, vegetative and animal. The laws of nature determine the instinctual relationships within each level and between levels. We know about laws such as gravity, but there are laws more hidden by which we are governed. They are interdependence, altruism, balance, inter-connection, harmony—all derived from the universal law of unity. The system runs like a machine by which cogwheels enable its motion.

The fact is that it is both magnificent and perceived by many as disturbing that each of us is a cogwheel, because mankind appeared into and as part of this system that was already in place. The wheels had been turning for billions of eons. This idea is repugnant to us because it shatters our belief that we are independent, self-governing, and self-reliant. It touches that place in each of us that hates to be told what to do. But it is this way, and it can’t be any other way.

Yet, there remains a point of choice—allowing ourselves to be managed by the unceasing influence of other cogwheels or aiming our efforts toward changing our direction. One choice results in the smooth operation of the machine, the other brings it to a screeching halt. We are experiencing all around us the effect of the latter outcome on our relationships with each other on all levels, from individual to international.

We are beginning to realize, in this new century and new millennium, that everything in the world is integrally connected. Globalization is the reality, but we are so far unable to adapt to it. The result is the crisis in the world we now face. The force of the ego has been the engine for our drive to develop our societies until we created an environment where we can live with relative ease and comfort. But we now have everything we need and ego is exposing its other side—greed, vicious discourse, the lust for wealth and power. We are beginning to understand that only by managing our egoistic desires will we survive.

These laws are interconnection, altruism, balance, harmony, interdependence.

The system of nature operates on the principle of connecting opposites—plus and minus, contraction and expansion, and so on. In between two opposing forces there must be some mechanism that brings them together to create something new. Inventors have used mechanical, electrical, pneumatic and other kinds of devices. Think of the tungsten in the old-fashioned light bulb. As human beings we are solely influenced by the egoistic force that controls, manages and rules us. It does whatever it wishes with us and we continue to do what its force compels, even though we may suffer harm.

The Balancing Force Is Found in Nature

The cyclic and predictable system of nature into which we stepped when mankind evolved maintains its balance and unity under the influence of the force of altruism. Nowhere in nature do we see any entity taking more from its environment than it needs. The lion eats its fill only until sated, then leaves what remains for other creatures to eat. We humans have within us the force of altruism, but we have to find it, learn what it is telling us to do, and act accordingly.

A desire manifests and I want to fulfill it, in fact I must, because this is what my ego dictates. And here, in this moment of my life, lies my freedom of choice. It is not a choice between several different possibilities, but about how my action will impact others. This determines whether my act will be egoistic or altruistic. Do I intend willingly to harm or exploit others in order to fulfill my desire? Or do I allow myself to be influenced by the altruism bestowed by nature and avoid any action that is not positive toward the common good? Whatever I choose, the outcome will imprint itself on the collective unconscious where it is felt by all mankind.

Decisions are made by learning to listen to the preference for peace within

If there is to be peace in the world, the only correct choice is to flow with nature, to surrender to the direction in which the other cogwheels push us. It is challenging inner work. It requires a deep understanding of the laws of nature and an agreement to align ourselves with them. It is to exult in the feeling of being a participating mover and shaker in a system of mutual guarantee. These moments of choice occur daily, multiple times, as we interact with each other in the world.

This is not theory, but practice. It is how we carry out our responsibility to care for all of nature in a loving way. The collective unconscious is not theory, but reality. The field of thought influences us all and what we add to it counts, one way or the other. We have, as individuals, enormous power to shape the substance of this field by carefully scrutinizing our intentions when we take from the richness of the resources of each level of existence to fulfill ourselves. When altruism is the motivator, we care for others at the same time we are pleasing ourselves.


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