The Desire Grows—Humanity Evolves
Whether it is the tiniest movement of our body, or humanity’s entire evolution, all we do is motivated by one thing only—the desire for pleasure
From the book From Chaos to Harmony
In his essay, “The Peace,” Baal HaSulam states, “It is well known to researchers of nature that one cannot perform even the slightest movement without motivation, meaning without somehow benefiting oneself. When, for example, one moves one’s hand from the chair to the table it is because one thinks that by putting one’s hand on the table one will thus receive greater pleasure. If one would not think so, one would leave one’s hand on the chair for the rest of one’s life without moving it an inch, and all the more so with great efforts.”
Man’s uniqueness, compared to the rest of Nature, is not only in the power and quality of his desires. It is also in the fact that man’s desires constantly increase and change, both during the lifetime of an individual, and throughout the generations. Examining the evolutionary history of other species, such as primates, indicates that several thousand years ago, primates were practically identical to those living today. While it is true that primates, too, change, as does any element in Nature, these are biological changes, like the geological changes occurring in minerals. Humankind, however, has gone through substantial changes over time.
The evolution of the desire for pleasure caused man to sense a constant need to develop, to invent, and to discover new things. A greater desire means greater needs, which yield keener intellectual and perception abilities. The growth of the will to receive generated humanity’s evolution in the following ways:
First, the will to enjoy manifested in physical desires, such as the desire for sustenance, reproduction, and family. These desires have existed since the dawn of humanity. But because man is a social being, additional desires evolved within us, called “human desires” or “social desires,” such as the desire for wealth, honor, sovereignty, and fame. These desires changed the face of humanity, introducing social classes, hierarchical systems, and changes in the socioeconomic structures.
Subsequently, there came the desire to enjoy knowledge. This desire manifested in the evolution of science, education systems, and culture. Its traces first appeared during the Renaissance and continued through the Industrial and Scientific Revolutions, and into the present day.
The growth of the Enlightenment Movement and the secularism of society were further manifestations of the desire for knowledge. This desire required that man understand all about his surrounding reality. Therefore, he sought more and more information, and wanted to research and control everything.
If we observe human evolution in culture, education, science, and technology in light of the understanding that desires lead all these processes, we will conclude that evolving desires also created all our ideas, inventions, and innovations. All of them are merely “technical” tools, “servants” that have evolved to fulfill the needs that these desires created.
This process of desire-evolution happens not only in the whole of humanity throughout history; it happens in the private lives of each of us as well. These desires surface in us one-by-one in a variety of combinations, and direct the course of our lives.
In fact, the internal engine that propels us forward and induces the processes that unfold in human society is actually our desire to enjoy. The evolution of our desires is ceaseless, and designs both our present and our future.