Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Ranting Against the UPG

I recently went shopping for a healthy Pagan message-board community, and tried out ecauldron.net for a month or so until I ran smack into the term UPG which had become vogue there. I had to do a web-search to find out what it means. Unverified Personal Gnosis: what a patronizing piece of vacuous bullshit. Put on your waders and join me as I examine this pernicious bit of effluvium.

First of all, there's a horrid redundancy in the term as it smirks behind its in-crowd initials. Are there Verified Impersonal Gnoses out there which need to be distinguished from the Unverified Personal ones? Of course not. Then why not just say “gnosis”? Idiots.

The whole point of the "Unverified" part seems to be to evoke the ghostly chains of the Vienna Circle. It's a Modernist empiricist thing: you wouldn't understand. Goddess, what bullshit. It seems to me that one of the major points of Neo-Pagan movement was go beyond Modernism and return to placing value on and acknowledging the reality of subjective, magical experiences particularly in the interplay between human and the divine. People in general do not dismiss, for instance, someone's saying "I'm in love." merely because the experience of being in love is subjective and, therefore, unverified and, indeed, unverifiable. But under the rubric of UPG we can tidily partition of all religious experiences and say "well, you may have experienced something, but that has nothing to do with me."

To be fair, I suppose that the "Personal" part is meant to distinguish UPG's from all those collective gnoses which are out there, but again I still have problem with the usage even there. Another part of what Neo-Paganism is about is the development of an intersubjective experience that brings us into a healthier, balance relationship to the world as an ecological system of interrelated sentient beings. The use of "Personal" emphasizes the individualism of our paths to the point that the emergent phenomenon of a collective sensibility gets reduced to a bunch of fruitcakes squawking about their inherently disparate trance experiences.

So I fail to see how UPG is anything other than a desiccated Modernist dismissal of everything of value in Neo-Paganism as a whole.

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