Ignorance is Bliss?


Quick summary –  Applying a ‘lack of knowledge or beliefs’ onto your perceptions so as to intentionally use ‘ignorance’ as a means of attaining ‘bliss’. ‘Ignorance is Bliss’ is a very common saying that is interpreted many different ways. I intend to offer one explanation as to why ‘ignorance’ can lead to bliss… I will suggest that ‘ignorance’ is something that we can attain intentionally… if we let ignorance guide our perception we can find more enjoyment or ‘bliss’ in life. When we project knowledge onto our perceptions we unintentionally draw automatic conclusions about our environment… often these automatic conclusions, thoughts, emotions, beliefs etc bring us to a place of suffering or at least to a place of reduced curiosity, excitement, openness and interest. If you have nothing to project onto your perceptions (no beliefs, no historical relevancies, and no facts) then every moment is novel and has the potential of bringing you bliss. This bliss is in contrast to the boredom or anger etc which arrives when we label a perception as ‘understood’.

To keep this post more succinct I will be talking about using ‘ignorance’ as a way of avoiding anger.


I am not defining ignorance as a negative thing… I am defining ignorance as a chosen position. “I know that I know nothing… therefore I know something,” is an example of chosen ignorance.

If you are not angry, then you do not understand.” – How often have you said, thought, or felt this way? Is it true?

What if the response to the above statement was…

“If you did not ‘understand’ then you would not be angry?”

  • Do certain perceptions need to elicit anger?


  • If you did not project your belief system onto a perception then it is unlikely that you would have a seemingly automatic emotional response – anger.


  • If you had no knowledge (ignorance) to project onto a perception then how would you react to that perception?


  • If you generally had a positive disposition and you did not allow knowledge to influence the way that you reacted emotionally to a perception, then perhaps you would be living in bliss.


Anger often comes about when we “know for a fact” that something is right or wrong/good of bad.

  • Perhaps if we never believed that we ‘knew for a fact’ that something was right or wrong/good of bad then we would never experience anger.


  • Do you have to be ignorant to ‘not know’… or is it ignorance which leads us to believe that ‘we know’?


Curiosity and authentic open-mindedness is a state of accepted ignorance.

To attain your desired bliss from a state of  intentional ignorance you can:

  • Choose to know that you do not know anything for certain…
  • As you perceive something that would historically elicit anger, apply curiosity to your reactions – notice the beliefs and emotions that surface when in the presence of this perception… this subject.
  • Do not try and alter your beliefs or emotions, just observe their presence… where did they come from? Do you control the onset of these beliefs and emotions?
  • Are your emotions the ‘right’ emotions and are your beliefs the ‘right’ beliefs… apply curiosity… where did your belief about ‘right emotions’ and ‘right beliefs’ come from.
  • Imagine know that you did not have these beliefs related to the subject at hand… imagine your self having a different emotional response attached to the subject you are perceiving.
  • Now that you have regained control over the onset of your emotions and beliefs… look at the subject and perceive it as if you are experiencing it for the first time… as judgments of right or wrong surface gently notice the automatic reactions and choose not to react to them.
  • You are now perceiving without knowledge… you are now ignorant about what you are perceiving… you are now free… bliss.


Debates about objectivity and the behaviors that we engage in surrounding objectivity (as in the idea that there needs to be a way for us to determine which things are always bad or always good) ultimately lead to the same question…

Counter position: “If everyone didn’t have beliefs and did not believe that anything was definitively right or wrong, then what would encourage people to do good and what would discourage people from doing bad… it is the responsibility of the educated to offer the structure needed for a harmonious and functional community… without knowledge there is no order or ethics… there is simply chaos”

I have talked about the above sentiment in many other blog posts, so I will not take too much time today with that counter argument. For the sake of today’s post I would suggest that universality is a bit irrelevant anyways as we are simply trying to increase a bit of bliss… I am not suggesting that you dismiss all ‘knowledge’… instead I am showing you how to be less emotionally controlled by your ‘knowledge’.

Alternate meanings of’ ignorance is bliss’: people also interpret this saying as suggesting ‘what you don’t know can’t hurt you’, ‘the more you know… the more problems you are aware of’’, ‘if you are ignorant than you are free from the burdens of knowing… and are therefore not responsible for fixing what you are unaware of.’

  • A common theme for these interpretations is that they are looking at ignorance as a quantifiable condition which is free from intentionality. The result of these meanings is that people who label themselves as objectively ‘not ignorant’ are inherently limited in their ability to access bliss. The saying might also feel un-empathetic to those living with less knowledge… ignorance can have some marginalizing effects which interrupts bliss.


It is the beliefs about a subject which cause mental suffering…


If a person was to believe for a fact that death was the path to utopia, then would death elicit sadness, fear and/or anger in those who held such a belief?

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.
William Hambleton Bishop
William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

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