The gnostic consciousness is founded on a totally different standpoint and basis than the mental consciousness within which human beings currently operate. We may call this the “divine standpoint” compared to the “human standpoint”. This consciousness is not simply an expansion, extension or intensification of mental powers of action; rather, it represents a “reversal” of view that changes the nature of the consciousness totally and in all its essential action.
The mental consciousness tries to capture a complete understanding through a process of accretion. Individual facts and viewpoints are welded together to create a picture of whatever is being viewed. Even in this process, however, the focus remains limited and cannot even remotely comprehend the whole.
The gnostic consciousness, as described by Sri Aurobindo, however, starts from the complete view and properly places and weighs details for their place within the whole.
“The gnosis starts from the totality which it immediately possesses; it sees parts, groups and details only in relation to the totality and in one vision with it: the mental reason cannot really see the totality at all and does not know fully any whole except by starting from an analysis and synthesis of its parts, masses and details; otherwise its whole-view is always a vague apprehension or an imperfect comprehension or a confused summary of indistinct features.”
The gnostic consciousness embraces and holds the three times, past, present and future in one complete view: “For while the reason proceeds from moment to moment of time and loses and acquires and again loses and again acquires, the gnosis dominates time in a one view and perpetual power and links past, present and future in their indivisible connections, in a single continuous map of knowledge, side by side.”
Similarly, the mental reason is captured by the individual names and forms and fails to grasp the essential oneness: “The reason dwells in the diversity and is its prisoner: it deals with thins separately and treats each as a separate existence, as it deals with sections of Time and divisions of Space; it sees unity only in a sum or by elimination of diversity or as a general conception and a vacant figure. But the gnosis dwells in the unity and knows by it all the nature of the diversities; it starts from the unity and sees diversities only of a unity, not diversities constituting the one, but a unity constituting its own multitudes. The gnostic knowledge, the gnostic sense does not recognise any real division; it does not treat things separately as if they were independent of their true and original oneness.”
Sri Aurobindo elsewhere describes “the logic of the infinite”. The reason is based in the finite and cannot comprehend or encompass the infinite. “But the gnosis is, sees and lives in the infinite; it starts always from the infinite and knows finite things only in their relation to the infinite and in the sense of the infinite.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 22, Vijnana or Gnosis, pp. 464-465