A Kabbalistic Approach to Spiritual Growth – Part 7 – The Will to Learn

We will now take the metaphor of entering and settling the Land of Israel, and extend it further in order to uncover the great secret concerning the role of will in education. This is one of the deepest yet most practical secrets of the Torah, according to Kabbalah. Understanding the will to learn is essential as this aspect of self is an extension of our very capacity to learn.

Will is the super-rational level (or keter, “crown”) of the soul. It is the primary source of energy and motivation for personality and the origin of all conscious activity, whether thought, speech, or deed. It parallels what secular psychologists call “drive.” Although some identify the primary drive as sexual, others claim it to be the survival instinct, while still others describe it as an urge to unite with God. This latter is closest to the Kabbalistic model of personality, yet, all are true from a certain perspective as long as the underlying motivation is holy.

Kabbalah teaches that “there is nothing more forceful in the soul than will” and “nothing can stand in the face of will.” This implies that will is the most potent force in the universe–both within an individual personality, and in the world as a whole. Yet, when will is vague and generalized, it has no actual working power. Only when it is focused and concentrated upon a particular point or goal, can its power manifest.

We tend to think of “attention” as an abstract intangible concept. In fact, it is the concentration of actual units of energy upon a particular point of focus. Hence its power is real in the physical sense as well as in the spiritual sense. In the same way that a magnifying glass can concentrate sunlight upon a dry leaf and ignite it so the mind and emotions must draw down will–the innate desire for good and growth that is initially vague and undefined in nature–and channel it into thought and action. Only in this way can will actually begin to alter the physical world.

When we look at will in terms of the meaning of education (as initiation/inspiration and integration), we see that inspiration is the act of arousing desire and direction in will. Inspiration can catalyze this process through the mind (via a beautiful idea, for example), or through the heart (via a special experience). Yet unless the will itself is touched, the intellect and emotions are impotent and incapable of effecting the initiation on their own. Many teachers can deliver information that excite the intellect, and even draw an emotional response from their students, but to arouse the will so that the students commit themselves to the work and sacrifice entailed in drawing that knowledge into their life is another challenge altogether. However, if the students are not changed by the experience, education has not actually taken place.

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