The Matter of Desire

in Kabbalah

Kabbalists teach that “a thought is an upshot of a desire,” but what does this mean? Desire is the single most powerful force in reality, yet it's so subtle, so elusive. How can that be?

The truth is that the most powerful forces are often invisible. Radio waves, magnetic and electric fields, radiation, and gravity are examples of powerful forces that we only know through the phenomena they exhibit. Indeed, our best definitions don't adequately explain what a desire is. It can be a noun or a verb and has all of the qualities surrounding both. It can seemingly come from nowhere or it can be sparked by the world around us.

Desires can exhibit as emotional things that don't have a physical "look" at all, and they might also be other forms of sensations that we can't picture because they're without any visual dimension. Desires are produced from external and internal stimuli such as a train heading straight towards us on the tracks or an itchy elbow. In the former case, we are compelled to move out of the way of the train by our desire for safety; in the case of the latter, the tiny irritant creates the impulse to scratch the itch.

It's true that our desires seem to us as invisible things that fly in and out of our heads. We wonder why we get that sudden urge to do something wild and crazy. We wonder why we don't do what we think we want to do. We might spend our hard earned money to change our bad habits that stem from our desires. But wait. Where are all these desires coming from?

According to Kabbalah, desires are our spiritual DNA. We are born with a chain of millions and millions of desires. During our lifetime, we open one desire after another. In fact, our spiritual DNA spans many lifetimes, operating in us from one incarnation to another. This chain of desires has only one purpose: to bring us back to the one desire that is the purpose of all creation: the desire to return to our spiritual roots.

Desire is the essence of man, but it needs a servant to bring it fulfillment. This is where thought comes into the picture. The minute a desire is awakened, it begins to do its work where it compels a man to think. He makes all kinds of calculations which lead to some kind of action-- an action that is born out of a need to fulfill that desire. It might be going to the kitchen for a cup of coffee or a slice of chocolate cake. It might be the decision to begin a job training program to prepare for a career. Whatever the desire may be, the mind is guided by it.

Desires are constantly awakening within us and being analyzed. If the pleasure that is expected to come from filling a desire is worth the effort it requires, then the desire is acted upon. If the effort required is too great, we will discard that desire and awaken a new one. All of this usually happens at an automatic level below our consciousness, but sometimes it reaches our consciousness before the calculation is complete. This is why we sometimes do the opposite of what we believe we want.  

The forces of desire which stir our thoughts and compel us to action operate our every single move. Therefore, we don't have the control we think we do. We can't control our thoughts or our desires: when we try, it's only at the expense of something else. For example, in our world, we might choose exercise over watching sports on TV, but that's not control. It's only the trading of one desire for another.

The study of Kabbalah provides us with insight into the relationship between our desires, thoughts and actions. It shows us what is fixed and what one can change. With this understanding, we open up a very narrow doorway where we can influence our desires, even if we cannot change them. If we choose to walk through this doorway, anything is possible.

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Bnei Baruch, is the largest group of Kabbalists in Israel, sharing the wisdom of Kabbalah with the entire world. Study materials in over 25 languages are based on authentic Kabbalah texts that were passed down from generation to generation.

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The Matter of Desire

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This article was published on 2009/01/28