Hazrat Inayat : Spirit and Matter pt III

Hazrat Inayat Khan now explains the distinction between spirit and matter as the difference between the all-knowing vacuum and limited substance. The previous post is here.

But what is most interesting in the study of spirit and matter is the nature of vacuum and substance. Substance has a tendency to add substance to itself and to turn all that it attracts into the same substance. Vacuum has a tendency to make a greater vacuum. This shows that there is a continual struggle between vacuum and substance. Where vacuum can get a hold of substance it will turn the substance into vacuum, and where substance is stronger it will turn out vacuum and make substance. The idea behind this is not what we may think. We think of vacuum as being nothing, we recognize vacuum by contrasting it with substance. If we want to explain what vacuum is, we call it absence of substance, but in reality substance has arisen from vacuum, vacuum is the womb of substance. Substance has been composed in vacuum and has developed in it, it has formed itself, it has constructed itself, and it will again be dissolved in the vacuum. There can be no form without a vacuum, visible or invisible. Everywhere there is a vacuum, but we only see what our eyes can see, and we cannot recognize as a vacuum that which our eyes cannot see. Even the pores of the body are a vacuum, although we do not always see them.

The difference between the nature of vacuum and the nature of substance is that the vacuum is knowing. Therefore the prophets have called it the Omniscient God, not in the sense of a person who is knowing but of the Whole Being, the All-knowing Being. Man is so limited; he is limited because his knowledge is limited. So he thinks, ‘I alone know. The vacuum, which is meaningless to me, which gives no sign of life, to me is nothing.’ But if he goes further in investigating the nature of vacuum he will find that he himself is nothing, his body, eyes, head, bones, and skin. If there is anything in him which makes him a knowing being, it is the vacuum.

In the mineral kingdom the stone is dense, it does not know much. The reason is that it has little vacuum. The tree feels more than the stone because it has more vacuum, as the Indian scientist Jagari Chandra Bose has pointed out. He tried to prove to the scientific world that trees breathe. Animals and birds show greater signs of life and a more pronounced knowing quality because the vacuum in them is greater still. In man it is even more so. What makes one part of substance knowing and keeps another part without this faculty of knowing is the vacuum in one object and the denseness of another.

There is a third thing we should understand concerning this subject, which is of great importance. That which stands between vacuum and substance is capacity. When we look at the sky we feel that it is a vacuum; it seems to be nothing, but in reality it is not nothing, it is capacity. Vacuum is all-knowing but it is capacity which enables vacuum to know. And as the sky is a capacity for the vacuum to be all knowing, so every being and every thing is a capacity, greater or lesser, which supplies a body or a vehicle for pure intelligence to work through.

There is nothing in this world, whether a stone, a tree, a mountain or a river, water or fire, earth, air, anything, which is not in itself a capacity. It cannot exist without being a capacity. Therefore all that exists, whether living or not living, is a capacity. We read in the scriptures that every atom moves by the command of God. In other words, behind everything that exists, be it large of small, in every motion it makes, even the slightest, there is the hand of spirit; it cannot act or move otherwise. Jalaluddin Rumi describes this in his Masnavi, where he says that fire, water, air, and earth all seem to man to be dead things, but before God they are living beings ready to answer his call. (Mathnawi I, 838)

Capacity is all-accommodating. All that we can know is known through some capacity – higher things through higher capacity and ordinary things through ordinary capacity. Even when we hear a voice it is through capacity. A house is a capacity, which helps us to hear it more clearly, the ears are a capacity in which it becomes audible, the mouth is a capacity in which the words are formed, the mind is a capacity in which we perceive it. The nature of every capacity is different but the whole phenomenon is that of capacity.

Among the Sufis there is a spiritual culture, a culture which recognizes four centers. Each center being a vacuum or a capacity for pure intelligence to function in. This shows that man has the greatest possibility of knowing all that is knowable, and he has an even greater capacity then that, to realize all that is known. If only he knew how he could achieve it! But one may say, why must substance coming from vacuum learn to know, when vacuum is already the all-knowing state? The all-knowing state is not the same as a limited-knowing state. To look at all is one thing, and to look at a flower with a little instrument is another thing. The conductor of an orchestra may hear the whole orchestra at the same time, and yet he may want to hear one instrument alone to hear how far it is correct.

It is not enough for us to see and to hear, to feel and to touch all these experiences going on at the same time; we like to experience through every sense singly in order to get a definite experience. That is the nature of spirit.

To be continued…

2 Replies to “Hazrat Inayat : Spirit and Matter pt III”

  1. Arno (Alîm) Reijers

    This is my most beloved phrase of Murhid Inayat:

    “The difference between the nature of vacuum and the nature of substance is that the vacuum is knowing. Therefore the prophets have called it the Omniscient God, not in the sense of a person who is knowing but of the Whole Being, the All-knowing Being.”

    With Love,


    • Nawab Pasnak Post author

      Thank you, dear Alim. It is a thought that is worthy of long reflection.
      With loving greetings, Nawab


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