The search for a substance out of which everything in the universe is made has been one of the favourite enquiries of philosophies all over the world. The Cārvākas [ಚಾರ್ವಾಕ], like some ancient Greek philosophers, held that the earth, water, fire and air elements are the substances out of which not only mountain, rivers, stars, etc. but also minds are made; for the Sāṅkhyas and the Jainas the ultimate substances are souls (puruṣas or jīvas) [ಪುರುಷಾ or ಜೀವಾ] and matter (prakṛti or ajīva) [ಪೃಕೃತಿ or ಅಜೀವ]. The Advaitins hold that in the ultimate (metaphysical) sense, there is no physical universe or plurality of soul, and the only thing that exists is infinite, simple, featureless consciousness (nirguṇa Brahman) [ನಿರ್ಗುಣ ಬ್ರಹ್ಮ].
The Vachana-writers hold that all physical things are evolution of the primordial substance, Śhakti, and all evolutions and involutions take place under the guidance of Parashiva (Linga), the infinite, undivided consciousness. Parashiva, who controls, Śhakti is therefore, personal, efficient cause, and Śhakti, the substantial (material) cause. The word 'Śhakti' is used in the Vachanas in two senses. When it is said that a potter has the capacity (Śhakti) to make a pot out of clay, by virtue of his capacity (Śhakti) he becomes an efficient cause. When, on the contrary, it is said that a seed has the capacity (Śhakti) to become a tree, the capacity (Śhakti) refers to a hidden potency, which is the material cause of the tree. The potter himself does not become the pot; he only operates on the clay to turn it into a pot; whereas the seed itself becomes the tree. In short, Śhakti either makes one active or produces something: It is The principle of activity and productivity.
The word Śhakti is used in the Vachanas on many occasions in both the senses. When Śhakti is said to become the world, it is potency and it is a substance; when GOD (Shiva) is said to possess Śhakti to create, etc. it means a quality.
In the Sāṅkhya system of Īśvarakṛṣṇa, prakṛti has the potency to become all that exists except souls. Prakṛti, by itself, i.e., without the guidance and control of Īśvara (in whose existence the system has no belief), evolves into the different things of the world, and after sometimes, involves into its original form. In other words, creation and retraction, the chemical, physical, biological and psychological changes that take place in between, are not the acts of God. However, according to Lingayathism, Parashiva (or Linga) is the efficient cause of all changes. The Śhakti, no doubt has the potency to become mountains, rivers, stars, etc. but it cannot become anything (or cannot remain static without becoming anything) without the guidance and control of Parashiva.
Normally the Vachana-writers make a distinction between kalā-Śhakti (or adhō-māyā [ಅಧೋ- ಮಾಯ]) and bhakti-Śhakti (ūrdhva-māyā) [ಊರ್ಧ್ವ- ಮಾಯ]. If the Śhakti becomes senses, intellect, mind, body, etc. because of which man suffers, it is called kalā-Śhakti. If the Śhakti becomes the same because of which man becomes spiritual minded, then it is called bhakti-Śhakti (or bhakti). Sometimes, Śhakti is said to consist of eight elements - earth, water, fire, air, space, atman, the sun and the moon, which together make 'the eightfold body' (aṣṭatanu [ಅಷ್ಟತನು]) of Parashiva. Whether Śhakti is body of Parashiva or not, it is entirely pervaded by him just like a living body by soul (see ŚHIVA-ŚHAKTI-SAMPUṬA).