With this post we begin a series in which Hazrat Inayat Khan examines the relationship between spirit and matter from a philosophical point of view.
We often use the words spirit and matter in our everyday speech, but their meaning is not understood by everyone in the same way. There is the man who says, ‘Spirit is one thing and matter is another thing; matter is not spirit, neither is spirit matter.’ This is a religiously inclined person. There is another, a materialist who says,’ There is no such thing as spirit, all that is there is matter.’ And then a third person comes along who says, ‘Do not mention the word matter to me, there is no matter. It is only an illusion – only spirit exists.’
One is free to believe what one wishes to believe, but when it comes to reasoning and looking deeply into life, one sees it in quite a different way. Just as ice and water are two things and yet in their real nature they are one, so it is with spirit and matter. Water turns into ice for a certain time, and when this ice is melted it will again turn into water. Thus, matter is a passing state of spirit, although it does not melt immediately as ice melts into water, and therefore man doubts if matter, which takes a thousand forms, ever really turns into spirit. In reality matter comes from spirit; matter in its true nature is spirit. Matter is an action of spirit, which has materialized and has become intelligible to our senses of perception, and has thus become a reality to our senses, hiding the spirit under it. It has covered the existence of spirit from those who look at life from the outside.
We read in the Quran that all comes from God and returns to Him. In philosophical terms one can simply say that all comes from spirit and will return to it. No substance can exist without spirit. Although there is a war between spirit and substance, although they are opposed to each other, at the same time no substance can ever exist without spirit. Throughout this battle between substance and spirit the substance will resist spirit and outwardly drive it away, resisting surrender or diminution by the power of spirit – but there will come a day when it will be diminished. In other words, there is no mountain which will not one day crumble.
What is death to the spirit? As spirit is nothing to matter, matter is nothing to the spirit; it does not miss it because it is self-sufficient. Spirit misses matter only in its limited and active condition. When the spirit is acting in a process towards manifestation, then it needs capacity. Through that capacity it experiences life in a limited way, but in its true nature it is self-sufficient. It stands in no need of any experience; it is itself all experience, all knowledge, nothing is wanting in it.
One may call matter positive and spirit negative, or spirit positive and matter negative. There is a reason for it in each case. If one calls matter positive, it is true, because matter shows itself as the picture while spirit is the background. We are always inclined to call the picture part positive, not the background. But if we call the spirit part positive, that is true too, because matter has come from spirit and spirit will consume it one day.
It is through vibration, through motion, that spirit turns into matter. Hindus call it Nada, and they always combine this word with Brahma; together, this means God-vibration. They never call it vibration alone; they always call it divine vibration. By vibration spirit arrives at two experiences. The first is that it becomes audible to itself, and the next is that it becomes visible to itself. In the Bible we read that first there was the Word and the Word was God, and then came light, visible life. This means that the first experience of the spirit is that life is audible and the next experience is that life is visible.
To be continued…