How to Understand Vegetative and Animate Life in a Way that
Prepares You for the Next Stage of Evolution
The first living organisms were
primitive cells, known as
“prokaryotes.” As with minerals in the
inanimate phase, prokaryotes grew
more complex.
The vegetative phase in the evolution of
life corresponds to Stage Two of the four
developmental stages of the primordial
desire in creation. The difference
between Stage One and Stage Two is
that Stage One is passive—receiving
what Nature gives it—while Stage Two
reacts to it, wishing to give back.
Similarly, plants respond to their
environment and interact with it. Their
product, oxygen, is the gift of the flora to
our world and is such a vital element of
life that without it, evolution as we know it would not be possible.
In his “Introduction to the Book of Zohar,” Ashlag explains that the vegetative level of the desire to receive, as
manifested in plants, exhibits a more intense desire to receive. This is why the structures it creates are more complex
and have a more noticeable impact on their environment.
Also, unlike minerals, plants are individual specimens with their own reproduction, feeding, and even migration
mechanisms. Yet, like minerals, all plants behave similarly—accurately adhering to the program installed within them
by the Creator. They open their petals (if they have them) at the same time in the morning, close them at the same
time in the evening, and follow almost exactly the same procedure as do the other specimens in their species.
Thus, compliant with the law of yielding self-interest described in the previous section, cells continued to evolve,
producing increasingly intricate and complex structures. At first, they congregated in large colonies of single cells.
Then, gradually, they began to realize that they could benefit from ascribing different roles to different groups of cells.
Some cells became “hunters,” providing food for the entire colony, other cells became guards, others still became
cleaners, and each group contributed its best to the community.
In The Study of the Ten Sefirot, Baal HaSulam provides a detailed examination of the internal structure of the Partzuf
we discussed earlier, and explains about such systems as the digestive system, the reproduction system, hands,
legs, etc.
However, Baal HaSulam describes all these elements as interactions between desires to bestow and desires to
receive. These are not physical objects of any kind, although how they behave serves as a “prototype” for the
behavior of similar systems in our world. In Kabbalah, a prototype is called “root” and all its offshoots are called
Beyond the obvious advantage of size that colonies have over single cells, returning to the topic of evolution, cells in
colonies have another edge over single cells: they can focus on a single task and thus perfect their performance,
increasing their contribution to the colony and relying on their fellow cells in the colony to provide for their other
Single cells, on the other hand, had to perform all the necessities of sustenance by themselves. This heightened
efficiency meant that colonies spent less energy to produce the same amount of food, warmth, protection and any
other necessity. Thus, yielding their self-interests, cells began to differentiate.
As cellular differentiation evolved, bigger, stronger, and more diverse plants appeared. By allowing some cells to
focus solely on the suction of water from the ground, and others to focus on photosynthesis, plants began to ascribe
certain sections in the colony, not just certain cells, to dedicated tasks. This resulted in the emergence of organs such
as root, stem, stalk, and leaves, and allowed for higher level plants to evolve. As before, the determining factor in the
success or failure of a new evolutionary stage was the “consent” of cells or organs within the host system to yield their
self-interest in favor of the interest of the entire system, in this case, a plant.

For some two billion years, plants were the rulers on planet Earth. But the desire to receive that broke Adam’s Partzuf
had more facets that needed correction, that is, to be taught how to work as a system, yielding selfish interest before
the interest of the host system. As desires continued to emerge, those that correlated to Stage Three of the four
stages began to manifest, creating more complex life forms.
Because of their higher level of desire, explains Ashlag in his “ Introduction to the Book of Zohar,” each specimen that
belonged to Stage Three had a heightened sense of self- determination and a greater desire for autonomy. Thus,
while specimens continued to recognize themselves as part of a species, they began to develop individual identities.
Corals, for example, which evolved nearly 500 million years ago, were among the first species of animals to appear.
Some of these developed (a primitive form of) muscles by which to stir their movement, and were thus able to move
about relatively freely. Moreover, unlike plants, which provide for their nutritional needs using photosynthesis, corals
must prey on other organisms to sustain themselves, and often contain algal cells to photosynthesize light for their
supply of carbohydrates (sugars).
But corals possess another form of tissue characteristic of animals: nerves. The appearance of a nervous system,
particularly a Central Nervous System (CNS), allowed for enhanced control over the organism’s function and
facilitated the evolution of the diverse fauna that exists today.
As we can see, evolution of the species and evolution of desires correspond rather nicely. A whole separate article will
be dedicated to the appearance and evolution of Stage Four in the desire to receive on earth—“the speaking”—which
is the human being.
“How to Understand Vegetative and Animate Life in a Way that Prepares You for
the Next Stage of Evolution” is based on the book, Self Interest vs. Altruism in the
Global Era: How Society Can Turn Self Interests into Mutual Benefit by Dr. Michael
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