Let’s talk Unverified Personal Gnosis
July 26, 2017 UPGs with Thor Halvorsen on the New Normal
When you deal with the Occult, the Paranormal, the Supernatural, the Metaphysical, and especially when you discover that your belief systems are closer to those of pagan ancestors than those of the modern world, you have two resources: what’s been written down, probably by Christians who disaprove of or scientists who disbelieve the subject matter, or your personal experiences. You wouldn’t take on the inconvieniences of calling yourself a Pagan, Heathen, or Witch, if you weren’t pretty sure that what you’re dealing with is real, and your life will be better if you maintain a positive relationship with these beings that most of the world seems to be telling you are imaginary.
There are enough of us now, (1-2 million estimated) pagans or polytheists in the USA, that you may have found others to hang around with. You may have found a Hellenistic (Greek), Khemetic (Egyptian), or Heathen (Norse) group that worship the same gods, and would like to do it together. Reconstructionist Pagans try to find as much material (often called Lore) from the pre-Christian writings on which to base practices. But we come to this situation through personal experiences, and keep having them.
At the same time, we are modern people and know that it’s possible to hallucinate, to see something briefly and have your brain turn it into something different, or even just remember things incorrectly. How do you know the experience, the vision, that you had was real? Joan of Arc wasn’t burned for cross dressing, she was burned for believing her visions over the Churches objections. But polytheists don’t have experts to tell them what’s Canon, we tend to come to a consensus. If your personal experienced differs from historical sources, or others experiences, they’ll be less likely to trust your description. It’s an “unverifiable personal gnosis” they might say. If several others have, for example seen the goddess Hecate with blonde hair, others may be willing to say “I guess that’s how she’s appearlng these days.”
Gnosis btw, is a knowledge of spiritual mysteries.
Wikipedia tells us:
“Unverified personal gnosis (often abbreviated UPG) is the phenomenological concept that an individual’s spiritual insights (or gnosis) may be valid for them without being generalizable to the experience of others. It is primarily a neologism used in polytheistic reconstructionism, to differentiate it from ancient sources of spiritual practices.
The term appears to have originally appeared in print in Kaatryn MacMorgan’s book Wicca 333: Advanced Topics in Wiccan Belief, published in March 2003, but seems to have originated in German–Scandinavian Reconstructionist groups in the 1970s or 1980s. The same phenomenon has also been referred to as “personal revelation”, or “unverifiable personal gnosis” (in a somewhat derogatory sense).
Ideally the term is used to label one’s own experience as a new and untested hypothesis, although further verification from the spiritual interactions of others may lead to a certain degree of verifiability[disambiguation needed]. At other times, the term is used in either a value-neutral or disparaging sense, about someone else’s experience.”
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