Friday, October 10, 2014

PBP: Week 41- UPG

Upg is an acronym for unverified personal gnosis: things that we have experienced that are not based on historical or universally accepted consensus.  Upg is a phrase that has been used more and more, and often in a somewhat negative light.  

There is the tendency to discount personal experience in favor of historical accounts.  Modern society teaches us that fact and history carries more weight and this has more value.  And even in the Pagan community, where we value personal expression, we often deny the validity of a person's experience when it is in direct opposition to what is generally accepted to be true.

But I think we forget that ours is a living and evolving tradition.  In fact, I think this is one thing that sets us apart from most other religions is that we do not have a static set of practices.  Instead, our beliefs are constantly changing and growing.  And this is all based on the experiences of the people practicing.

Every single one of us contributes to the body of work that is Paganism.  It is our experiences, shaded through the lives we have lived that future Pagans will turn to as they work through their own path.  Each of us will experience the world in our own way because we are all individuals.  This is why our experiences are so varied.

If you ask ten people to describe a situation, you will get ten different descriptions.  If you ask a hundred people, you will surely get a consensus, a common thread that runs through the many stories, and yet there will always be outliers.  And yet, those people who have different stories, are not wrong.  They just lived through a different experience because of their unique life experiences.

There is a lot of discussion about who is right or wrong.  Which in turn often leads to discussion about whether or not the Gods themselves can evolve and change.  Can they appear differently to each of us, and if they can are they still the same Gods?

I don't feel like this diminishes our beliefs at all, rather I think this gives our beliefs depth and complexity.  Instead of being a simple flat picture, it becomes a sculpture with texture and volume.

But what about when someone's Upg is completely contradictory to the general consensus?  I think sometimes it can be a matter of perspective, like those pictures that are so close up that'll you can't tell what they actually are.  Perhaps we are simply not able to see from far enough away to see how it fits.  I also don't discount the human error.  There have been plenty of times when I thought I understood what has happened and then later realized I was completely wrong in my assumptions.

And let's not forget too that some people do create their own versions of things that are meant to be provocative.  They want to create strife and stir things up by insisting that their experience is both real and valid.  It is my experience that people who insist their version is the true one and other people's are not are often blind to the greater vision, either through choice (when someone decides to keep their blinders on) or fear (like covering your eyes so you can't see the truth).

Ultimately, I celebrate Upg because it adds depth and clarity to my path.  Even when someone else's Upg is different from mine, I learn about how other people see things and sometimes about how I my own visions define me.


  1. As someone said on my post on the same topic, thus the "P" for personal. Most of my trust issues about UPG revolve, not around matching history, but on the sometime habit of certain folks to try making the "U" stand for "universal" in practice.

  2. Yes, I've seen that, where someone has an experience and tries to 'correct' the general consensus. I don't think that Truth comes in only one flavor.