A close-up image of a spiderweb delicately capturing the morning dew, symbolizing the intricate and mysterious nature of God's creation.

What Is God Made Of: An In-Depth Exploration

Since the beginning of human civilization, humanity has pondered the fundamental nature of God. If God created the universe and everything in it, what is God itself made of? This question has captivated philosophers, theologians, and ordinary people alike for millennia.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: most major religions and belief systems conceive of God as a supreme being or divine force that transcends physical form and human comprehension. God is typically believed to be eternal, infinite, all-powerful and made of an intangible spiritual ‘substance’ beyond scientific understanding.

In this approximately 3000 word article, we will thoroughly explore predominant religious and philosophical perspectives on the fundamental composition of God.

The Abrahamic God in Judaism, Christianity and Islam

An eternal, infinite, and all-powerful being

The Abrahamic God is conceived as eternal, infinite, and all-powerful. He exists outside of the constraints of time and space. As the ultimate creator of the universe, God has complete power over all things and events. Nothing can exist or happen without his willing it.

This supreme being is often described with lofty superlatives – he is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. His ways are mysterious and inscrutable to the human mind. As the Bible says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

A divine spirit without physical form

The Abrahamic God has no physical form. He is conceived as a purely spiritual being, not bounded by a body. Although God at times takes visible forms and interacts tangibly with people in scriptural accounts, most theologians agree he has no inherent corporeal existence.

As Christ says in the Gospel of John, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)

This non-physical nature allows God to be omnipresent, existing everywhere at once. It also makes him invisible to the human eye. As Moses was told in Exodus, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20). His spirit presence fills all of creation, but he remains unseen.

Beyond human reason and physical laws

The Abrahamic God transcends the rational faculties and observational tools of human beings. We cannot comprehend the full mystery of his essence using logic or science alone. As the prophet Isaiah expressed, ‘”For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD.”

(Isaiah 55:8).

Similarly, God is not constrained by the physical laws of the universe he created. He can intervene miraculously, suspending or altering the normal laws of nature. This is evidenced in key events like the parting of the Red Sea during the Exodus. As C.S.

Lewis famously said, “If he is outside of nature, then we must expect him to appear unnatural in our eyes.” The God of Abraham defies our notions of normalcy.

Hindu Conceptions of Brahman

The universal soul and supreme reality

In Hinduism, Brahman refers to the supreme, ultimate and impersonal reality of the universe. Brahman is seen as the divine ground of all being, the eternal, infinite, omnipresent and omniscient source from which all of existence arises.

Brahman is conceived as an invisible, unchanging absolute reality that transcends space and time.

Brahman is understood to be the universal soul or spirit that dwells within all living beings. The Atman, or individual soul of a living being, is seen as an eternal spark of Brahman. Just as the sun’s rays allow life on earth but are not the sun itself, the Atman emanates from Brahman but they are not identical.

The goal of spiritual practice in Hinduism is to realize one’s divine identity with Brahman.

Brahman is often described as Sat-cit-ānanda, or being-consciousness-bliss. It represents absolute, unchanging existence, infinite knowledge and wisdom, and perfect beatitude. Attaining awareness of one’s unity with Brahman brings release from worldly suffering and the cycles of death and rebirth.

Both formless and manifold

A key conception in Hinduism is that Brahman is both formless (nirguna) and has manifold forms (saguna). As the formless absolute, Brahman transcends all concepts, attributes and qualities. Yet Brahman is also understood to manifest in personal forms as divine beings and deities such as Vishnu, Shiva, Devi and Ganesha, which represent different aspects of the one supreme reality.

This dual conception of the ultimate reality as simultaneously formless and possessing forms accounts for the rich diversity of Hindu religious traditions. Philosophical schools such as Advaita Vedanta emphasize Brahman in its nirguna or unqualified aspect.

Devotional traditions like Vaishnavism worship personal deities like Vishnu as manifestations of saguna Brahman.

Hindu thought embraces both the abstract, universal conception of the divine along with more accessible, tangible forms for worship and meditation. The myriad deities act as gateways to connect with the infinite Brahman.

The material and efficient cause of the universe

In Hindu cosmology, Brahman is understood to be both the material and efficient cause of the universe. As the material cause, Brahman provides the substance from which the universe emerges. As the efficient cause, Brahman initiates the creation of the universe.

The Vedas describe the universe as the manifestation of Brahman: “All this is, verily, Brahman.” Yet Hindu thought views this as an apparent creation only. Just as a rope in dim light may be mistaken for a snake, the phenomenal world is seen as superimposed on the unchanging reality of Brahman.

Brahman brings the cosmos into being, permeates it to sustain it, and withdraws it back into itself in endless cycles. The universe is periodically created, maintained, dissolved and remains in potential state until a new cycle begins.

All of empirical reality is considered transitory and ever-changing, in contrast to the permanent state of Brahman.

Understanding Brahman as the ultimate cause and substance of the universe provides a grand, all-encompassing vision of reality in Hindu philosophy. Brahman represents the infinite potential from which untold numbers of universes arise, exist and dissolve again into the void.

Buddhist Ideas of Emptiness and Interconnectedness

The emptiness of inherent existence

A key concept in Buddhism is that all phenomena lack inherent existence or independent essence. Nothing exists entirely on its own, but only through its relationship to other things. This idea is sometimes expressed as “emptiness” (śūnyatā in Sanskrit).

Emptiness points to the lack of real substance that appears to exist in people and objects when examined closely.

The Buddhist philosopher Nāgārjuna argued that anything which arises due to causes and conditions is ultimately transient and empty of independent essence. When we peel back the layers, we find that there is no solid “core” to things – they are composed of parts, which are themselves composed of other parts, and so on.

So things only exist in dependence on other things, not on their own.

Interdependence of all things

Following from the idea of emptiness, Buddhism teaches the radical interdependence of all phenomena – nothing exists independently, but only in relation to everything else. Some have called this “dependent co-arising” or “dependent origination”.

The Buddhist teacher Thích Nhất Hạnh used the term “interbeing” to convey how everything is composes the existence of everything else.

This interconnection applies to both living and non-living things. As humans, our bodies and minds are dependent on food, water, air and shelter to survive. We are shaped by our social relationships and environment. So we “inter-are” with other people, species, and natural forces around us.

There is no real separation between self and other.

Beyond concepts and attributes

Some Buddhist teachings go a step further to say that the ultimate nature of reality is beyond conceptual thought and language. Our words and concepts can never fully capture the suchness or “thusness” (tathātā) of things as they are. So descriptions of emptiness, non-self, interdependence etc.

are only ever provisional, not absolutes.

Dzogchen and Zen Buddhism especially emphasize a direct realization of reality without getting stuck on philosophical models. Yet the interconnected and ephemeral nature of existence is a recurring theme across schools. As the Heart Sutra profoundly states: “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. “

Taoist View of the Tao

The Taoist tradition offers a fascinating perspective on the fundamental nature of existence. At the core of Taoist philosophy is the concept of the Tao, which refers to the ultimate, ineffable source and essence of all things.

The ineffable source of all things

For Taoists, the Tao is the ultimate, transcendent reality that existed before the universe came into being. It is the formless and infinite source from which all things arise and to which they return.

The Tao is the primordialmother of the ten thousand things – it is the font of creation, the eternal origin. As the Tao Te Ching states: “There was something formless yet complete, that existed before heaven and earth; without sound, without substance, dependent on nothing, unchanging, all pervading, unfailing.”

The undifferentiated absolute

In its undifferentiated state, the Tao is free from all distinctions, divisions, and dualities. It precedes the separation of yin and yang, female and male, light and dark. The Tao is whole, complete, and without contraries.

It represents the primordial unity that underlies and transcends all multiplicity. As the Tao Te Ching says, “The Tao produced the One. The One produced the two. The two produced the three. And the three produced the ten thousand things.” The Tao exists prior to the arising of the many from the one.

Precedes distinctions and forms

As the origin of existence, the Tao is the uncarved block, the metaphysical ground from which the world of form and phenomena emerges. The Tao precedes any concepts, categories, divisions, words or symbols. It is beyond descriptions and conceptual understanding.

The Tao Te Ching states: “The Tao that can be told of is not the eternal Tao; the name that can be named is not the eternal name.” The Tao is ineffable precisely because it precedes distinctions and definitions. To speak of the Tao is to diminish what cannot be diminished.

Philosophical Arguments Against Anthropomorphism

God is not a ‘magnified person’

Many philosophers argue that conceiving of God as a “magnified person” is an overly simplistic view that fails to capture the true nature of God. This anthropomorphic conception makes God seem too human-like and limits God to the characteristics of human beings, just on a grander scale.

However, God transcends human concepts and categories. God is wholly other, eternal, infinite, and beyond full human comprehension. Viewing God as simply a bigger, more powerful human sells short the profound mystery and otherness of God.

As renowned theologian Karl Barth said, “God is not a magnified image of man.”

Attributes are metaphorical, not literal

When we ascribe attributes like love, justice and mercy to God, philosophers contend that we are using metaphorical language, not literal ascriptions. Terms like “all-loving” and “all-knowing” cannot be understood in the same direct way when applied to God versus a human being.

There is an analogical gap between God’s qualities and ours. For instance, God’s omniscience refers to a wisdom so far beyond human understanding that we cannot grasp it fully. Using human terms to describe divine attributes is an approximation at best.

As philosopher Thomas Aquinas explained, we cannot know what God is directly, only what God is not.

The via negativa approach

Some philosophers emphasize the via negativa approach – defining God by what God is not. Given the limitations of human conceptions, it may be easier to say what God is not, rather than presuming to know what God is. God is not literally “a person” or anthropomorphic being.

God is not bounded by human flaws like jealousy, vindictiveness or pride. God transcends space, time and materiality. As a form of negative theology, the via negativa avoids imposing human-centric definitions on the divine, recognizing that the Infinite always exceeds our finite categories.

This preserves God’s radical otherness and unfathomable mystery.


What is God made of? There may never be any definitive answer. Yet exploring predominant conceptions of the divine across faiths and philosophies reveals some thought-provoking common threads – God as an infinite, eternal, and fundamentally ineffable source beyond human categories.

While cultures imagine the ultimate reality in diverse symbolic forms, they converge in finding God essentially unknowable in literal Physical terms. The mystery of God’s elemental nature continues to leave room For ceaseless human contemplation and debate.

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