Chapter 17: The Voice That Is Soundless
The thirteenth sutra:
Hold fast to that which has neither substance nor existence.
Hold fast to that which has neither substance nor existence. There are two things. Matter has substance, it is substantial. If I throw a stone at you it has substance to it, mass. It will hit you: matter is substance. But what is mind? What are you in your inner being, in your consciousness?
Consciousness is not substance. It exists, it has existence, but it has no substance. I cannot throw consciousness at you. And even if I throw it, you will not be hit. Consciousness exists, matter subsists. Matter has substance, consciousness has existence.
This sutra says: Hold fast to that which has neither substance nor existence. The divine is different from both. It is not like matter, not like substance. It is not like mind or consciousness. You cannot say God is substance and you cannot say God exists - for many reasons. When you say God exists, you are saying something tautological, a repetition. When I say this table exists, it is meaningful because the table can go out of existence: we can destroy it. But when I say God exists it is meaningless, because God cannot go out of existence and cannot be destroyed. Existence is meaningful only if nonexistence is possible. If nonexistence is impossible, existence is meaningless.
When you say God exists, what do you mean? Can God not exist? Then, it is meaningful. But if you say he cannot be in a state of nonexistence, then what you really mean is that God is existence, not that God exists.
God cannot exist; God can only be existence. When I say the table exists, the table is not existence; it can go out of existence, so the sentence is meaningful. When I say God exists, it is meaningless, because he cannot go out of existence. So when I say God exists, I mean that existence exists - a tautology, a repetition, useless. Even to say God is, is meaningless because he is the very isness. There is no need to say is. God is not is; he is isness.
You cannot say God is substance nor can you say he exists. He is beyond both: beyond matter and beyond mind. Or, he is both. In both ways, he transcends.
These are the last instructions for the disciple when he is ready to enter the temple of the divine. Nothing more can be said.
Remember this: God is not matter. We have a concept of God as matter. That’s why we create idols, we create temples, we make images - all substances.
Islam does not allow idols to be made of God only because of this: so that God will not be made identical with matter in any way. No idol, no image should be made of God because an image gives a sense of substance, and he is not substance.