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Personal Gnosis

Personal gnosis is a term used to communicate personal perceptions of the divine, personal attributions of sacredness, and subjective experiences of a religious or spiritual nature. Communicating such experiences or perceptions by calling them part of one's own personal gnosis is a simple way to say, "For me these things are sacred," or, "This is my own spiritual truth," or, "This is/these are my god(s)." Personal gnosis is non-absolutist, meaning that communicating personal gnosis does not imply universal truths which everyone should strive to understand, uphold, or experience for themselves.

In its most basic form personal gnosis may be a sense of something greater in the universe, possibly even some greater will at work in one's life. It is very common for people to have a sense of something — oftentimes someone or several someones — existing beyond our everyday experiences and our abilities of comprehension, and also having the sense that they should strive to understand or connect with it, her, or them. Additionally, basic personal gnosis may begin with the attribution of "this is greater" to something familiar, like a favorite fictional character, a favorite ancient or modern myth, or a philosophical concept. Personal gnosis may stop with senses or attributions like these, i.e. it may stop at the representational level, or it may progress and change via communal and transformational aspects. (More on those below.)

The term "personal gnosis" has been modified from "UPG" or "unverified personal gnosis", which has long been used in Pagan circles to communicate personal experiences of a spiritual or divine nature which are not corroborated in sacred lore. For the purposes of the polygnostic framework the word "unverified" has been removed to signify that it isn't necessary to check personal experiences, perceptions, or determinations about spiritual matters against any sacred lore.

Representation, Communion, Transformation

To more thoroughly understand the nature and the function of personal gnosis, it helps to divide it into three subtypes:

Representational personal gnosis is simply what someone's personal gnosis looks like: which god(s) they worship, what sacred concepts they uphold, and which other aspects or parcels of existence they sacralize. For a theistic person, representational personal gnosis will likely involve a divine figure, or a pantheon, as well as any other concepts or phenomena they may revere. For someone who worships nature, representational personal gnosis will involve the natural world in general, and/or perhaps specific natural settings. Other people uphold and seek to embody or understand sacred concepts like the Tao, or the Noble Eightfold Path, and their representational personal gnosis reflects whatever concepts they uphold and interact with.

Sacred mythologies, should a person recognized them, can also fall under the umbrella of representational personal gnosis. People can regard any myths or stories as sacred: fantasy novels, science fiction or comedic TV shows, and video games are all potential sacred myths.

Additionally, personal histories of involvement with divine forces or anything sacred may constitute representational personal gnosis. Remembered spiritual experiences or divine revelations, and remembered affairs involving sacred matters are sometimes as important to people as their god(s) or the sacred matters themselves.

Representational personal gnosis answers the question, "What is it?" regarding one's personal gnosis.

Communal personal gnosis describes how a person communes or connects with the objects of their representational personal gnosis. For people who seek to embody or understand sacred concepts, communal personal gnosis involves all efforts geared toward embodying or understanding those concepts. For theistic people, communal personal gnosis likely involves prayer or worship, as well as efforts to understand their god(s). If a person sacralizes video games then she may consider the act of gaming as part of her communal personal gnosis. A nature worshiper may connect with the sacred earth by participating in park clean-up days, or going hiking.

If personal experiences involving the divine or sacred matters are a part of a person's representational personal gnosis, then she may also connect with those by regularly giving thanks for them, or by intentionally calling to mind the memories of those experiences and reflection on their meanings.

Communal personal gnosis answers the question, "How do you connect with or relate to it?" regarding one's personal gnosis.

Transformational personal gnosis refers to experiences — ones which are related to personal gnosis — that have any transformative effects on a person. These effects may pertain entirely to personal gnosis — i.e. such experiences may alter the objects of personal gnosis (representational) or how a person connects with them (communal) — or they may affect other aspects of a person's life, like how they behave at work or deal with unpleasant emotions. Examples of transformational personal gnosis include: theistic people hearing divine voices or receiving divine visions during prayer, nature worshipers seeing a beautiful view on a hike which they subsequently regard as sacred, or a Buddhist gaining new perspective on the Noble Eightfold Path as she attempts to embody that sacred concept in her everyday life.

Transformational personal gnosis answers the questions, "How does it change itself? and how does it change you?" regarding one's personal gnosis.

Transformational personal gnosis is also not the only way that personal gnosis can change. People can seek counsel regarding how to develop their personal gnosis, or they can willfully determine how their personal gnosis will develop by freely adding new aspects, or modifying/nullifying existing aspects.