Nescience, Ignorance and the Growth of Consciousness

Sri Aurobindo uses the terms “Nescience” and “Ignorance” with a very specific definition in mind. Each of these represents states of consciousness. Nescience is dark, dense and unaware, heavy with its lack of awareness, dark with its lack of light. It is however, a state of massed involved consciousness. Under certain circumstances prodded by the influx of the light of consciousness permeating and infiltrating into is darkness, an intermediate state of awareness consisting of partial light makes its appearance, and this is called “Ignorance”. It is the condition of having to evolve consciousness out of Inconscience and Nescience that creates the difficulties we experience in this world of Ignorance.

“The essential difficulty comes from the fact that the substance of our normal being is moulded out of the Inconscience. Our ignorance is a growth of knowledge in a substance of being which is nescient; the consciousness it develops, the knowledge it establishes are always dogged, penetrated, enveloped by this nescience. It is this substance of nescience that has to be transformed into a substance of superconscience, a substance in which consciousness and a spiritual awareness are always there even when they are not active, not expressed, not put into form of knowledge. Till that is done, the nescience invades or encompasses or even swallows up and absorbs into its oblivious darkness all that enters into it; it compels the descending light to compromise with the lesser light it enters: there is a mixture, a diminution and dilution of itself, a diminution, a modification, an incomplete authenticity of its truth and power. Or, at the least, the nescience limits its truth and circumscribes its force, segments its applicability and its range; its truth of principle is barred from a full truth of individual realisation or from an achieved truth of cosmic practice.”

“A full action in harmony with a new law of the being is always difficult in human nature; for in the substance of the Inconscience there is a self-protective law of blind imperative Necessity which limits the play of the possibilities that emerge from it or enter into it and prevents them from establishing their free action and result or realising the intensity of their own absolute. A mixed, relative, curbed and diminished play is all that is conceded to them: otherwise they woudl cancel the frame of Inconscience and violently perturb without effectively changing the basis of the world-order; for none of them have in their mental or vital play the divine power to replace this dark original principle and organise a totally new world-order.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 26, “The Ascent Towards Supermind”