Let’s Talk Unverified personal gnosis

July 26, 2017 UPGs with Thor Halvorsen

http://tobtr.com/s/10166025 link to archive

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.”

Tune in to http://www.Liveparanormal.com, to listen on your computer. If you’d like to join the conversation, we’d love to hear your perspective and experiences. call 619-639-4606 (live only). If you know you’re going to listen later but have a question, leave a question on the facebook event page . We’ll try to answer it during the show.

If you can’t tune in 8-9, Live Paranormal.com archives its shows by date, and I archive them by date, guest, and topic on my website: https://tchipakkan.wordpress.com/the-new-normal/directory-of-podcasts/

Hope you can join us on the New Normal, at LiveParanormal.com


Virtual Friends


Yesterday they announced which actor had been selected to play the next Doctor in the long running (50 year) show Doctor Who. Both before and since the announcement, the social networks of facebook, tumbler (and probably others) have been buzzing with fans registering their reactions, and also those suggesting that the volume of “noise” is unwarranted. As usual, a simple comment has sent my thoughts meandering around the “whys” of what means a lot to people.

Dr. Who has been a part of people’s lives for 50 years. Also, there’s a very real phenomenon with long running shows that you “know” the characters, you know what’s happened in their lives, you know their likes, dislikes, and quirks; in short- you feel you know them.

In the mind this is not very different from how well we know people we’ve actually met and with whom we’ve interacted. Talking about the shows and characters with friends reinforces this reaction, it gives us knowledge and experiences in common with our (living) friends/  acquaintances. The addition of “fan” culture allows people to “interact” with the characters in their minds.  Think about the difference between a memory of something that happened and a memory of a dream or daydream. There’s not really much difference except that no one else shares the memory. With movies and TV, you can share the memories, and with long running shows, a person’s responses to the incidents become a part of their lives. I still grieve for the fictional Henry Blake from M*A*S*H, and was amazed at my reaction to the end of the WWI Black Adder season even though I’d been warned how touching it was.


I also know more than one person who has gotten married to someone they met on-line, and history is full of people who developed strong relationships by mail. It is conversation or other kinds of interaction that make strong bonds between people. But, you may think, it’s not two-way with fiction. No, but why differentiate between powerful fiction in books and on screen? As long as there have been books we’ve known that they inspire us, and even change our lives. Having heroes, people we can emulate, is a good thing that most people accept.

Given that I am of a “paranormal” thinker, I also speculate that when something is believed in long enough and strongly enough it becomes real. There have been experiments showing that this kind of “energy construction” is possible. Belief can create “ghosts” where there was no actual precipitating event, such as with the Philip Experiment in Toronto. Thus, I speculate, that somewhere, since so many millions of people have read/re-read, and loved such books as the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter books, Middle Earth and Hogwarts and Narnia exist out there- somewhere, on some plane of reality. Similarly Charles Darnay and Don Quixote are real somewhere. One hopes that their consciousnesses are not trapped in the most uncomfortable moments of their interesting lives.

I feel that real or not, we can talk to mental constructs of characters, even as we talk to “real” people who are not there, by reason of distance, or having died, or simply because they aren’t open to the conversation we want to have with them. (The argument between Merida and Elinor in different parts of the castle is one of the best scenes in the movie Brave.) Imaginary Friends, are an integral and accepted part of childhood. (How many may actually exist and just be invisible to parents is a rumination for another day.) Talking things out, by yourself or with someone else is a solid technique for exploring a concept, and whether the surprise inspirations come from our subconscious or an extra dimensional being is less important that the intrinsic value of the information discovered by the process.

I’m going to return to the point where I started. If you enjoy memories of the times you spent with fictional characters, if they inspire you to be a better person, to think beyond the confines of your normal life, to see yourself in a more positive way, then I think they are better for you than memories of “real” people who have created those voices in your head that make you doubt yourself. If the tardis set down outside my door and the Doctor invited me to come explore Time and the Universe with him, sorry kids, cancel my appointments, I’m out of here.

As to the choice of actor to play the doctor? I will weigh in that for some of us, if Matt Smith (or any young Doctor) showed up, I’d be a bit tempted to say as Wendy told Pan: “I’m sorry Peter, I can’t go. I’m ever so much more than twenty.” or even as Molly Grue told the last unicorn “How dare you come to me NOW when I am this!” Even at 60 I treasure those moments of possibility that fiction- whether written or on screen- afford us, and I would prefer the Doctor to be like the earlier, older Doctors who have faces and bodies that let the viewer know their wisdom as well as wit, and don’t lean so much on sexual tension to inspire interest in the relationships with their companions. I suppose if it’s a virtual friend, we, as well as they, can be anything they need to be.