Sri Aurobindo translates Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Chapter One, Section 2, Verse 2: “The waters verily (in their movement) are action; that which was a lake of waters was contracted and became compact. This became earth; upon earth he grew weary; in his weariness he was heated and the Essence of energy went out from him, even Fire.”
If we look back at the Vedic use of the symbols, as Sri Aurobindo has done in The Secret of the Veda, we find that the image of the rivers represented streams of consciousness. These streams of consciousness carry out the manifestation through the process of involution and compaction. The compaction forms the element earth, which is the densest element. All energy is contained within earth, as modern science has confirmed through the conversion of Matter into Energy. We can see this process more simply in the element of fire which is brought forth out of earth.
Western scientists tend to start with gross matter and from there see the development of the subtler forces of life and mind. They are left without any idea of how dense matter can spawn life, much less the higher powers of mind. The Vedic Rishis describe a process which they elsewhere have imaged as a tree with its roots above and branches below. The process starts with the more subtle, which successively “condenses” as it involves consciousness into ever-denser forms. In the end, consciousness is embedded and hidden in matter. It is only thus that it can later evolve out and manifest consciousness in material forms. As scientists have gone deeper they begin to realize the tremendous intelligence, organisation and power contained in the very building blocks of matter, the atomic realm, and thus, have moved their leading edge views towards one that aligns closely with the Vedic view, that it is consciousness that creates energy and energy that creates matter.
Sri M. P. Pandit, commenting on the hunger that creates the universal manifestation, notes: “This Desire sought an embodiment; it needed a body for the organisation and working out of its Impulse. It dwelt upon itself i.e. upon the Truth in itself in an adorative contemplation and there ensued the Waters, the streams of Consciousness-Force which uphold all creations. From these Waters, following a process of self-condensation, there came to be the Earth, the solid base for the manifesting Force to stand upon and act. And then came Fire, the Energising-Force at the centre of the evolution of this creation. This force of dynamism, the Agni, is the very life-essence, innate power of the manifesting godhead.”