Chapter 2: I Want, Therefore I Am
Life as an Evolution of Desires
Where We Are Free to Choose
As we just learned from Baal HaSulam, the difference between the speaking level of reality and the other three levels, both in their overall nature and within us, is that we are unlimited by time and place as far as choosing what to draw near us and what to repel. Put differently, in the whole of Nature, the human race is the only species that has freedom of choice. While all other creatures follow Nature’s dictates involuntarily, we can choose whether to follow them or not. Regrettably, as is evident from today’s global crises, when we choose to go against Nature’s dictates without full knowledge of the implications of our actions, we suffer harsh consequences for our mistakes.
And since internally we consist of the same four levels, the same rule applies within us, and only those desires and qualities within us that belong to the speaking level are those in which we have freedom of choice.
Within us, the basic, natural desires—for reproduction and continuation of the species, for shelter, and for provision—correspond to the first three levels of desires in Nature—still, vegetative, and animate. The fourth level, “speaking,” manifests within us in desires for wealth beyond our needs, power, fame, respect, and knowledge.
The fundamental difference between the three lower levels and the top one is that the lower three exist in every creature on earth. Every creature strives to secure the existence of its species and keep its offspring safe in a fitting shelter. Conversely, the fourth level of desires, which we will roughly define as “desires for wealth, honor, and knowledge,” are exclusively human.
Just as in their overall nature, the three lower levels function automatically, according to Nature’s dictates. The only faculty in which there is freedom of choice is the speaking level of desires. Therefore, we must first learn the works of our internal nature before we attempt to satisfy the desires of the higher level.
To be able to work with our fourth level of desires properly, we need to know what affects those desires and the purpose of their existence within us. In effect, it is another level of desires within us that “supersedes” all four levels, and which exists only in humans.