UPG

Note: The original questions also refer to doxa. This is not a term I’m personally familiar with. I read the dictionary definition of it, but for lack of my own experience in using the word, I’m going to skip that part.

What is UPG?

UPG stands for Unverified Personal Gnosis. “Unverified” means that it is not something you found in a book or heard from a reputable outside source. You are admitting that it is a guess, and you may be wrong. Maybe later you will verify it, but that hasn’t happened yet. “Personal” means that it is yours. It might not apply to anyone else. On the other hand, it might also mean that it fits you more precisely than the generalizations you find in public practices. This is something “custom made” for your situation, not “off the rack.” “Gnosis” is spiritual knowledge or insight.

UPG refers to a kind of spiritual knowing that is gained by your own experiences and thoughts. Your experiences and your thoughts are unlikely to be the same as anyone else’s. UPG is modern spiritual shorthand for declaring that what you are talking about is your opinion. It may be deeply held by you, but it might not mean much to anyone else.

What are the rules on UPG?

The rules are that there are no rules. Anyone can make a spiritual guess about anything. That said, there are a few guidelines for improving the respectability of your guesses.

First, is to remember the U and the P. You might be wrong, or, the information might apply only to yourself and not to someone else. No one else is required to believe in the same thing you do. Their disbelief is not always the same thing as disrespect. Remember that others have UPG too. Yours and theirs might not agree. If someone tells you that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is allergic to purple, you can have respect for the person’s right to hold that belief without sharing it. (Maybe The Great Noodly One, just didn’t like that guy’s sweater.)

Second, research is not required to have a guess, but it will make your guesses better. You don’t have to believe in, or agree with, everything you read, but having some background helps to put ideas into relevant context. If your UPG contradicts prominent sources without an intrinsically explainable cause, you may find a few eyebrows raised in your direction. What you do about those eyebrows is up to you. Maybe you’ll ignore them and go on your way. Maybe you’ll start second guessing and lose confidence in your faith. Maybe you’ll find a way to incorporate the new information. You can’t really control what others think about your stuff. You can only really control your own reaction to it.

Third, take a moment to check whose toes you are stepping on and if it is really necessary to do so. You probably already know that you should be careful what you say about another person’s friends or family. Keep in mind that some people have relationships with their gods that are just as close as family. Controversial things sometimes do show up in UPG. Try to have the sense not to broadcast those things. It can’t always be helped. You might offend completely by accident. If it happens, apologize for causing offense (not necessarily for having the belief), and watch your tongue in the future. This is what private journals and friend locked blogs are for. Get the controversial UPG off your chest there and not in public.

How important is UPG?/Should we rely on it?

UPG exists in the space outside of standardized ritual. That’s a really big area to fill. Any time your gods speak to you directly, or through various signs, that’s UPG. Your negotiations with them, your images of them beyond the standard iconography, or even random jokes and trivial likes and dislikes are UPG. It’s difficult to have a meaningful relationship without relying on some UPG. No academic can tell you how to nurture your personal relationship with the divine. They can give their own ideas about how other people used to do it, but they can’t tell you about your specific situation. It’s imprecise. It can get messy, but you can’t really get away from it.

Should we pay attention to others’ UPG, or let it influence our own UPG/practice?

You don’t have to pay attention to what someone else is doing unless you want to. If solitary practice is your thing, then go right ahead. If you want to work within a community, then it helps to have an idea of what’s going on in that community. Personally, I enjoy hearing UPG stories from my fellow Kemetics. However, there shouldn’t be any great pressure to make all the stories agree. The old myths don’t even agree with each other. Why should we start trying to create a monoculture now? There is a fuzzy line between influencing each other and creating an atmosphere of clone consensus. I take that second one as a warning sign. Influence is ok, but not to the point that you stop having your own ideas.

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