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Author Topic: General/Non-Specific: In Defense of “Unverified Personal Gnosis”  (Read 1098 times)

SunflowerP

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In Defense of “Unverified Personal Gnosis”
« on: March 03, 2019, 10:48:02 am »
There's a pretty good* article up on The Wild Hunt, In Defense of “Unverified Personal Gnosis”, that I thought folks here might be interested in (not least because, IIRC, TC is where the term was coined), and perhaps discuss - either, or both, the article itself, or the questions it asks about the role of UPG and where (if anywhere) and why to 'draw the line'.

Do you make use of UPG in any form? Why/why not? What kind of limitations or restrictions do you think it should be subject to?

Sunflower

(*Aside from speaking of Neopaganism as if it were a single religion, particularly noticeable when the comparison to early Christianity is drawn - it doesn't render that comparison invalid, and is peripheral to the main subject matter of the article, so it doesn't inherently detract from the article's pretty-goodness about UPG.)
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Re: In Defense of “Unverified Personal Gnosis”
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2019, 11:13:36 am »
There's a pretty good* article up on The Wild Hunt, In Defense of “Unverified Personal Gnosis”, that I thought folks here might be interested in (not least because, IIRC, TC is where the term was coined), and perhaps discuss - either, or both, the article itself, or the questions it asks about the role of UPG and where (if anywhere) and why to 'draw the line'.

Do you make use of UPG in any form? Why/why not? What kind of limitations or restrictions do you think it should be subject to?

I'm practically all UPG, really, except where I find out, as I often do, that some of my received info *does* have known historical basis that I was previously unaware of.  I think I would have a difficult time believing in non-scientifically-provable things any other way, actually.   As for limitations to be placed, I feel like the FAQ in the Mystery Seeker's SIG here is a really good one (and a resource I often point people to from other sites).

 Basically, make sure it makes some kind of sense and is helpful or at least non-harmful to you, don't go telling everyone to do it your way as the One True Way or attributing your UPG to others without a qualifier, and keep in mind you *could* Get It Wrong simply because spirit/deity communication is not all that precise or easily managed.   All of that actually applies pretty well to conventional religions, too, it's just that there's a larger possible study sample for how it will play out IRL.

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Re: In Defense of “Unverified Personal Gnosis”
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2019, 04:57:13 pm »
the questions it asks about the role of UPG and where (if anywhere) and why to 'draw the line'.

I don't really think there is a place to 'draw the line';

From the article:
Quote
where do we draw the line between one’s personal experience and the accepted consensus of the community? Surely a line must be drawn somewhere to maintain some integrity and consistency within our religions and their practices — right?

My (very visceral) reaction to this was 'no, that's stupid.' In modern society, religion is largely personal form of self-expression, and every person has the right to decide what they believe, no matter how outlandish it might seem to outsiders. In a world where supernatural belief is itself seen as inherently incredulous by a large, and growing, portion of the population (the 'nones' and atheists), it seems rather duplicitous for some religious people to scorn other's because their beliefs are different; no set of supernatural beliefs is more logical than any other set! A belief system that one person holds is not actually any less likely to be true than a beleif system held by billions of people, because truth is not a popularity contest (See argumentum ad populum logical fallacy).

All of that it to say; the belief in Odin, Huitzilopotchli, or Yahweh exactly as held by people 700 years ago and expressed in ancient myths, is no more likely to be right or true than beliefs about Odin, Huitzilopotchli, or Yahweh that are conceived of in modern times. Just because an idea is older or more popular doesn't make it more right.

Another thing; most people who have UPG or SPG have it because they actually experienced the things they believe; if someone has had first-hand supernatural experiences with a deity, it's rather insulting to their intelligence when you tell them they can't believe the things they personally experienced. For example: If a person claims to know that Jesus was female, because Jesus told them so, it is entirely unfair to demand that they recant their heresy because it contradicts scripture.

... and yeah, that is basically what one is doing when one condemns UPG; it's tantamount to making an accusation of heterodoxy, heresy, and wrong belief.

So no, for me, the entire notion that
Quote
Some might say that any UPG/SPG not in agreement with the surviving lore is unacceptable, but anything that fits within or compliments the lore is welcome.
Doesn't cut it for me at all; a Christian can disagree with Paul or Matthew, can reject those books as valid scripture; a Muslim can reject some parts of the Hadith that he or she finds unlikely; a Jewish person can criticize the Talmud and even books of the Torah; practically all Hindus pick specific texts to value over others because there is so much contradiction between our holy books...

...so why should pagans be forced to take the surviving texts at face value? What if all of Christianity were lost except the apocryphal and pseudonymous gospels? How would Christian-recons 2000 years from now know they were using unreliable sources? They wouldn't. On the same token; how to modern pagans know that they are using reliable sources for their confirmed gnosis? What makes those texts, or fragments of texts, more reliable than their own lived experiences?

Quote
The fact of the matter is that the answer to the question of where to draw the line is likely to be different for each individual.

This is something I can (basically) agree with the author about.

"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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Re: In Defense of “Unverified Personal Gnosis”
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2019, 06:02:14 pm »
Do you make use of UPG in any form? Why/why not? What kind of limitations or restrictions do you think it should be subject to?

Since there is no accepted canonical religious text stating that Freddie Mercury is God, I must confess that I use UPG myself.

Mind you, I had some UPG before then, because (a nod to the article for bringing up this topic) I was working with Powers who did not quite align with the bulk of the surviving texts. Despite all the lore we have from Hellenic sources, much has still been lost about the nature of their gods, especially in pre-Classical eras. But most of that was just filling in blanks. As this article points out, the majority of us have to do that to some extent in neopaganism. I've also seen some people distinguish that kind of research and extrapolation from "UPG": the latter is limited to gnoses, major revelations from the gods.

In other words, I use fill-in-the-blank-style "UPG" because, as the article points out, it's often necessary to have any kind of coherent practice. But what about the "major revelations from the gods" kind? The kind that isn't strictly necessary to build a practice, but instead strikes from the blue and changes everything?

My belief in Mercury as a god or Power fits into this category, and I use it because it provides a key center for my practice that holds together everything else. I use it because the experience of receiving it was powerful enough to leave marks that I can't deny. I use it because, as far as I'm concerned, it's not unverified any longer; Mercury has proven himself to my satisfaction, even though of course I know I can't force that kind of belief on other people.

It's this form of UPG that a lot of people seem to be most wary of. On some level that's fair because in theory it could be whipped out in favor of even the most absurd beliefs--"the gods said so." But religion is always evolving and changing (whether or not the gods themselves do), and human beings are always discovering new permutations of it. UPG is a big part of how it happens. The last paragraph of the article is a good perspective on that, in my opinion--focus on evaluating ideas for their value in their own right rather than simply dismissing them because they're UPG; fight the harmful ones; let time prove which others stand their ground.

Obviously you can't just go around throwing yourself at every belief that enters your head, so I do think UPG, especially more dramatic versions, should be examined closely before you act on it. Checks like this post are excellent for that. But in and of itself, UPG is a major part of the basis of religion as we know it.
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Re: In Defense of “Unverified Personal Gnosis”
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2019, 08:37:04 pm »
Do you make use of UPG in any form? Why/why not? What kind of limitations or restrictions do you think it should be subject to?

I have never really used this term to describe my own practices, but since I work with, acknowledge, and have beliefs about four powers that are not a part of any religious lore, mythology, or belief system I suppose I do work with UPG, too.

Everything I know of these entities is based on visions, internal imagery, internal voices, intuitions, and non-verbal communications.  On very rare occasions there is one of them that I "switch places" with.  While the whole phenomenon may be psychological, I treat the entities as sentient, and it may even be that they are external powers that come clothed in subjective imagery just as other humans in my life are external to me, but I can only perceive them through subjectivity and symbols.

I integrate these UPG-based experiences into my spirituality because my form of religiosity is largely experiential.  My liturgies contain traces of Christian liturgy, parts of my past, phrases and expressions that have had an impact on me, historical events from my life dressed up in mythic-like ways, all these different elements from my experiences, so it only makes sense to include such an important part of my UPG that has involved these beings that I experience as both external and yet aspects of myself at the same time.

As for limitations and restrictions, I remind myself that I cannot prove that these beings are external in any sense.  I know to the degree that I can be certain of anything that they are at least real in my internal world, but I cannot prove an external element in the sense of a spirit, an angel, and/or a god.  At the same time I confess that I cannot prove that they are not external to me in that sense.  On many such topics I remain an agnostic whatever my experiences are.  I know that there is so much I cannot prove, and I am trapped (or at times liberated by) my subjectivity.  My approach to religion is all about subjectivity.

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Re: In Defense of “Unverified Personal Gnosis”
« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2019, 09:11:16 pm »
There's a pretty good* article up on The Wild Hunt, In Defense of “Unverified Personal Gnosis”, that I thought folks here might be interested in (not least because, IIRC, TC is where the term was coined), and perhaps discuss - either, or both, the article itself, or the questions it asks about the role of UPG and where (if anywhere) and why to 'draw the line'.

Do you make use of UPG in any form? Why/why not? What kind of limitations or restrictions do you think it should be subject to?

Sunflower

(*Aside from speaking of Neopaganism as if it were a single religion, particularly noticeable when the comparison to early Christianity is drawn - it doesn't render that comparison invalid, and is peripheral to the main subject matter of the article, so it doesn't inherently detract from the article's pretty-goodness about UPG.)

This gets a bit complicated for me as someone who attempts reconstruction of Slavic and PIE paganism. I believe that ancient culture is like a form of inherited wealth. You don’t need it in order to be successful, because someone had to make it from scratch at some point. However, an inheritance can be substantial nevertheless. It can help you in a lot of ways. Of course, some people might prefer to stand on their own.

In my case, it’s partially a sense of duty to preserve the inheritance so that it’s there for someone else down the road. It’s not just mine, so I feel obliged to salvage what virtually no one else will. There’s that aspect of it too. It’s not that I’m anti UPG. It’s more that my particular UPG tells me *I’m* supposed to be a preserver of unappreciated lore.

It’s worth noting also that there are different types of things that get called UPG. This can range from full on spiritual visions to simply “feeling” something is right based on information you have at the time. I would not try to correct someone who had a vision or dream. However, feelings based on information are open to discussion.

For example, if you link Ishtar with Eostre/Easter, it’s worth pointing out that the two etymologies are different. That’s a fact. However, if you acknowledge this but still see a link between the two based on seasonal/ fertility linked correspondences, I can’t really say otherwise. Not for certain. Basic facts should be discussed, but people are entitled to interpret what I would refer to as “the greater mysteries” for themselves.

« Last Edit: March 03, 2019, 09:16:54 pm by Zlote Jablko »

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Re: In Defense of “Unverified Personal Gnosis”
« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2019, 06:07:22 pm »
For example, if you link Ishtar with Eostre/Easter, it’s worth pointing out that the two etymologies are different.

I have something like that; I'm wholly convinced (due to UPG) that the "Danu" of the Tuatha Dé Danann is the being/person as the "Danu" described in the Rigveda as the mother of the Danavas. The etymological link between the two is shaky at best, and largely rejected by modern scholars, but I don't really care because my personal interactions with Celtic and Hindu deities leads me to think they are the same. They're also both maternal deities associated with water, so there's that connection as well.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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Re: In Defense of “Unverified Personal Gnosis”
« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2019, 06:52:47 pm »
In other words, I use fill-in-the-blank-style "UPG" because, as the article points out, it's often necessary to have any kind of coherent practice. But what about the "major revelations from the gods" kind? The kind that isn't strictly necessary to build a practice, but instead strikes from the blue and changes everything?

I use both of these, along with the third variant, 'discarding what seems to have more to do with Victorian scholars' assumptions that the original practices.' Egyptian lore gets a lot of this; I guess it's a rough equivalent to the Christian-monk-bias issue for Norse and Celtic lore.

I've also had cases where I started with a piece of UPG which later got confirmed by scholarly sources. Which always struck me as a little bit creepy.

Hariti

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Re: In Defense of “Unverified Personal Gnosis”
« Reply #8 on: March 04, 2019, 07:38:49 pm »
I've also had cases where I started with a piece of UPG which later got confirmed by scholarly sources. Which always struck me as a little bit creepy.

Hmm. Why is that, if I may ask? I've always been really glad when sources validate my UPG, because too me it implies I really am working with who I think I'm working with.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

Zlote Jablko

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Re: In Defense of “Unverified Personal Gnosis”
« Reply #9 on: March 04, 2019, 11:55:10 pm »
I have something like that; I'm wholly convinced (due to UPG) that the "Danu" of the Tuatha Dé Danann is the being/person as the "Danu" described in the Rigveda as the mother of the Danavas. The etymological link between the two is shaky at best, and largely rejected by modern scholars, but I don't really care because my personal interactions with Celtic and Hindu deities leads me to think they are the same. They're also both maternal deities associated with water, so there's that connection as well.

That’s a little different. The linguistic relationship between Easter and Ishtar is nil. One comes from Old English and the other is Sumerian. There is no linguistic relationship.

With Danu, it’s plausible but impossible to prove. At worst, a toss up. It shows up on Mallory’s Encyclopedia on Indo-European culture, so it’s not exactly a fringe theory. Also, it’s based on a solidly constructed word that shows up in Indo-Iranian and European languages. Note the Welsh word “Donwy.” Mallory’s Encyclopedia also lists Lithuanian “Dunojus” meaning “Large Stream.”

PIE-reconstruction Wiktionary entry for 'déh₂nu'

Of course, it’s speculation. I spoke with this a bit on one of EmberHearth’s thread. I think reading the Ossetian Nart Sagas were the big UPG moment for me. In them, the main characters (the Narts) are almost all born from Dzerassae, the daughter of the water God Donbettyr. (The “bettyr” part means “Peter” and is an attempt at Christianization)

Donbettyr’s name sometimes appears in the plural form to refer to his whole family. So Dzerassae the Donbettyr or “of the house of Donbettyr” is functionally similar to the Irish Danu, in that she is the progenitor of a tribe of immortals. It just makes a lot of sense to me.

In Slavic fairy tales you have a similar narrative, although without the telltale “Don-“ root that shows up in Ossetian.

[Edited to make a link stop trying to eat itself - SP]
« Last Edit: March 05, 2019, 02:10:58 am by SunflowerP »

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Re: In Defense of “Unverified Personal Gnosis”
« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2019, 01:52:47 am »
That’s a little different. The linguistic relationship between Easter and Ishtar is nil. One comes from Old English and the other is Sumerian. There is no linguistic relationship.

Yeah, but if it were found that the two 'Danu' have no common etymology, as some scholars have suggested, would that make my experiences and beliefs less valid?
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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Re: In Defense of “Unverified Personal Gnosis”
« Reply #11 on: March 05, 2019, 04:27:31 am »
Yeah, but if it were found that the two 'Danu' have no common etymology, as some scholars have suggested, would that make my experiences and beliefs less valid?

It would be impossible to prove invalid, of course. Like I said earlier, linking deities  from different cultures is getting into the realm of mystery.

There are also other reasons for linking deities, aside from comparative linguistics. I’ve always been impressed by similarities between Iroquois beliefs and some of my own. At that point, I just kind of shrug because I don’t know why.

As for Danu, you could probably link her to any number of Goddesses associated with fertility and water.


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Re: In Defense of “Unverified Personal Gnosis”
« Reply #12 on: March 05, 2019, 04:57:27 am »
It would be impossible to prove invalid, of course. Like I said earlier, linking deities  from different cultures is getting into the realm of mystery.

I totally agree!
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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Re: In Defense of “Unverified Personal Gnosis”
« Reply #13 on: March 05, 2019, 05:05:36 am »
It would be impossible to prove invalid, of course. Like I said earlier, linking deities  from different cultures is getting into the realm of mystery.

There are also other reasons for linking deities, aside from comparative linguistics. I’ve always been impressed by similarities between Iroquois beliefs and some of my own. At that point, I just kind of shrug because I don’t know why.

I sometimes speculate that, somewhere beneath the surface that is the material world, there are formless, fathomless divine currents, and here and there they break through like magma fountaining forth from a volcano, and they become Mysteries, and gods are formed. When similar bits of current break through in different places, similar Powers are formed, but the nature of the culture and geography they spring from makes them not quite the same.

Earlier tonight I was discussing some fuzzy similarities between my loosely Greco-"Minoan" path and a friend's heathen path; I voiced the opinion that Dionysos and Odin perhaps came from the same current. Yeah, plausible, she responded, but how do you explain the Hermes connection?

I mused that when proto-Dionysos arose from Mysteries in the Minoan Aegean, the people were in touch with Kemetic Egypt, which had heavy syncretism among its gods. So they formulated a system where the mystic, ecstatic, liminal, mad Dionysos was the core, and Apollo and Hermes functioned as his more semi-orderly guardian arms of prophecy, music, language, and travel on either side, but all were part of the same Mystery. But the ancient Norse didn't have the same cultural context of easy syncretism, and Odin touched on and was transformed by those same Mysteries alone. By the time the Romans met him, both Dionysos and Odin/Woden had evolved sufficiently that they identified the Norse Odin (predominantly, to their eyes, defined by his associations with wandering paths, magic, and inspired language; also, he had a rad hat or something?) with their Mercury.

--that's all just speculation, of course. But I do think sometimes religious parallels go beyond those that are easily explained by cultural diffusion.
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Re: In Defense of “Unverified Personal Gnosis”
« Reply #14 on: March 05, 2019, 07:24:33 am »
Do you make use of UPG in any form? Why/why not? What kind of limitations or restrictions do you think it should be subject to?
UPG is simply a part of the path to VPG. UPG shows me where I'm wrong.  :)

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