The Difference Between Gnostic Consciousness and Bliss Consciousness

Sri Aurobindo poses the question as to the need for yet higher planes or levels of consciousness once the gnostic level has been reached. The gnostic consciousness is intense and radiant and is based on its direct relation to the Sat-Chit-Ananda. It also communicates by creating the apparent divisions of the lower planes of Mind-Life-Matter and allows the diffusion of the intensity to accommodate the differing receptivity levels of the lower triad.

The Taittiriya Upanishad clarifies that the level of Bliss, Anandamaya, is beyond the gnostic or vijnanamaya level, and that it therefore is the underlying cause and basis of the gnostic as well as the other lower planes.

Sri Aurobindo takes up then the question he has himself posed: “There is no essential difference, but yet a difference, because there is a transfer to another consciousness and a certain reversal in position,–for each step of the ascent from Matter to the highest Existence there is a reversal of consciousness. The soul no longer looks up to something beyond it, but is in it and from it looks down on all that it was before.”

The diffused experience of bliss that can be found at each level, although attenuated and watered-down by the conditions of each respective plane. There is no real direct comparison between the intensity and compact experience of Ananda at its native level compared to what little bit of it leaks through to the vital or material planes. “But in the lower planes not only is it reached by a sort of dissolution into it of the pure mind or the life-sense or the physical awareness, but it is, as it were, itself diluted by the dissolved form of mind, life or matter held in the dilution and turned into a poor thinness wonderful to the lower consciousness but not comparable to its true intensities.”

At the gnostic level this experience of Ananda can be much more intense: “The gnosis has on the contrary a dense light of essential consciousness in which the intense fullness of the Ananda can be. And when the form of gnosis is dissolved into the Ananda, it is not annulled altogether, but undergoes a natural change by which the soul is carried up into its last and absolute freedom; for it casts itself into the absolute existence of the spirit and is enlarged into its own entirely self-existent bliss infinitudes.” The Sat-Chit-Ananda is the source and basis of the gnostic consciousness, but its role is to then disseminate this force into the appropriate forms and intensities for each of the lower levels, while holding all in its unity and harmony. “Gnosis is the divine Knowledge-Will of the divine Consciousness-Force; it is harmonic consciousness and action of Prakriti-Purusha–full of the delight of the divine existence. In the Ananda the knowledge goes back from these willed harmonies into pure self-consciousness, the will dissolves into pure transcendent force and both are taken up into the pure delight of the Infinite. The basis of the gnostic existence is the self-stuff and self-form of the Ananda.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 24, Gnosis and Ananda, pp. 483-484