The evolution of the earth nature is not finished because it has manifested only three powers out of the seven-fold scale of consciousness that is involved in manifested Nature. It has brought out from its apprent inconscience only the three powers of Mind and Life and Matter.
Matter, one might say from a certain viewpoint, is purely a matter of mathematics. That cannot be said of Mind or of Life. Then again, Matter is a matter of formulas. Everything purely material is created according to a formula. Again, Matter is a matter of magic. It is a thing of magical and irrational or suprarational formulas. Lastly, all Matter is matra, a thing of degrees, measures, quantities.
We find that water is produced by a combination in a fixed quantity of the two first elements, hydrogen and oxygen. We do not know or do not yet know why this should be so. All we can say is that (it) is a fixed law of Nature that when this formula is scrupulously followed without deviation something called water appears, - becomes a phenomenon of material Nature. There seems to be no reason in this miracle. We could partly understand if oxygen and hydrogen by their very nature tended to produce in any combination water or something like water, but only in the fixed amounts couold bring out the perfect article.
But this is not the case; only by the fixed relative combination can it be done. This formula then is of the nature of a magic formula. Only by pronouncing a fixed combination of words or syllables or sounds can the magic result follow and not otherwise. Any variation voids the effect and leaves the incantation barren.
Hydrogen itself is produced by a combination of a fixed number of electrons or electric particles of energy in a fixed relative position in their movement. Oxygen is produced by another such combination.
Ether and material space are different names for the same thing. Space, in its origin at least if not in its universal character, is an extension of the substance of consciousness in which motion of energy can take place for the relations of being with being or force with force and for the building up of symbolic forms on which this interchange can be supported. Ether is space supporting the works of material energy and the symbolic forms it creates; it is, speaking paradoxically but to the point, immaterial or essential or essential matter.
Matter is but a form of consciousness; nevertheless solve not the object entirely into its subjectivity. Reject not the body of God, O God lover, but keep it for thy joy; for His body too is delightful even as His spirit.
Perishable and transitory delight is always the symbol of the eternal Ananda, revealed and rapidly concealed, which seeks by increasing recurrence to attach itself to some typal form of experience in material consciousness. When the particular form has been perfected to express God in the type, its delight will no longer be perishable but an eternally recurrent possession of mental beings in matter manifest in their periods and often in their moments of felicity.
Excerpt from the book Essays Divine and Human by Sri Aurobindo