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UPG is a term often heard in Contemporary Paganism, especially in Reconstructionist circles, which stands for Unverified Personal Gnosis.
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 Germano-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).
As attempts at recreating or restarting ancient religions continue, the difficulty in telling the difference between historically attested sources and modern, personal interpretations grows. All myths and legends started at some point in the human past with one person or group’s experience; thus it would be inappropriate to dismiss out-of-hand a new experience. UPG grew out of the need for a shorthand in differentiating the two.
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. At other times, the term is used in either a value-neutral or disparaging sense, about someone else’s experience.
UPG is sometimes also said to stand for Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis.
SPG (Shared Personal Gnosis) – indicating a mystical vision shared by a number of unrelated people, preferably, one arrived at independently of one another.
CG (Confirmed Gnosis) – indicating that substantiating evidence for an incidence of UPG or SPG has later been found in the lore. This is also sometimes referred to as CPG (Confirmed Personal Gnosis).
This term has been useful in navigating a course toward historical accuracy in the Pagan community, by separating historical attestation from personal revelation. From a naturalistic perspective, one may well wonder if a similar feat can be accomplished in navigating a course toward scientific accuracy, by separating evidential support from personal conviction.
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