In the late 1940s and early 50s, the great kabbalist and thinker Baal HaSulam wrote a series of essays and notes that were later compiled into what became known as The Writings of the Last Generation. In those writings, Baal HaSulam described the challenges he saw in humanity’s situation, what he feared those challenges might lead to, and how he thought humanity should resolve them.
In Part One of the writings, Baal HaSulam paints a very gloomy picture of the future of humanity unless we carry out our duty to shift our efforts from thinking only of ourselves to thinking about others. In his words, “I have already said that there are two ways to discover the completeness: the path of light or the path of suffering. Hence, the Creator [nature] has given humanity technology, until they have invented the atom and the hydrogen bombs. If the absolute ruin that they are destined to bring upon the world is still not evident to the world, they can wait for a third world war, or a fourth one. The bombs will do their thing, and the relics who remain after the ruin will have no other choice but to take upon themselves this work where both individuals and nations do not work for themselves more than is necessary for their sustenance, while everything else they do is for the good of others. If all the nations of the world agree to it, there will no longer be wars in the world, for no person will be concerned with his own good whatsoever, but only with the good of others.” Have we learned our lesson? Are we afraid of the bomb enough to relinquish the pursuit of power and, instead, work for the sake of others in order to secure a peaceful future for humanity?
I don’t know the answer to this question. I know that humanity is still fearful of the horrendous consequences of nuclear weapons, but I don’t know if this worry is enough to block ruthless and reckless leaders from using them regardless.
The problem is that we are built with two very different qualities within us. One quality is the reasonable one, which warns that unless we exercise restraint, we could obliterate human civilization in an instant. The other quality says that having such power means that the minute you have it, you become the ruler of the world, and this is an irresistible enticement.
If people felt connected to each other, we wouldn’t go in that direction to begin with; we wouldn’t go to war, much less a nuclear war. But since we do not feel connected, our only consideration is the self-centered one, and in such a state, no caution influences us. Currently, even if we know that once we embark on nuclear warfare we will seal our own doom, and we do know it, we will still go through with it. When hatred rules, it knows no limits.
Because hatred sets the tone in our relationships, the only way to prevent us from tipping the scales toward a nuclear war is to change human nature from egotism to altruism, from putting “me” before “we.” Nothing else will prevent us from setting off an inferno on a global scale. Such a flip of character will not come easily; it will require everyone’s willingness to go through the process. If only some people go through it while others maintain their selfish mindset, the selfish will exploit those who are attempting to change, and this will thwart the entire process.
For this reason, it is imperative that as many people as possible know what lies ahead if we continue on the self-centered trajectory, and that we can change it if we want. People must know that they have a choice, since choice means hope, and hope prompts action. If we act together, we will build a good future for everyone. If we remain apart, none of us will have any future.
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