Unverifiable personal gnosis, or UPG, concerns knowledge that holds importance to an individual, usually in a spiritual or metaphysical sense, even if no objective, corroborating evidence can be produced to support it.
OriginThe term is primarily used among those within the neopagan movement, although it can certainly be applicable in other religious paths as well.
SourcesUnverifiable personal gnosis can come from a variety of sources. Some can be dramatic, such as religious visions or experiences within trance. Others can be subtler, forming out of long religious experience rather than striking a person at one particular moment.
For example, people following ancients gods within the context of a new or reconstructed religion (a modern religion attempting to mimic an ancient religion to the best of its ability based on available materials) often develop different views of these gods than what is specifically depicted in their surviving mythology. These views are based on UPG: accumulated knowledge built up over time studying, worshiping and working with the deity in question.
Importance of UPGUnverifiable personal gnosis is an important issue in understanding why people believe the things they do, particularly if they follow a religious path that does not have holy scriptures or an authoritative hierarchy.
It is also important to remember that this such knowledge is indeed both personal an unverifiable, so while it can be a tremendous reason for an individual to believe in something, it provides no reason at all for others to agree with that person.
For example, plenty of people are skeptical about the existence of angels, or at least of angels taking any sort of active role in the physical world, and there's plenty of reason for this: the lack of objective evidence supporting their intervention here.
However, if an individual experiences a vision of an angel, or feels the presence of an angel saving them in a moment of hardship, or hears their voice at a critical time, that would provide plenty of incentive for that individual to believe in angels and their willingness to intercede in human affairs. They cannot prove their experience to others, but the incident is, nevertheless, incredibly powerful in the mind of the one who experienced it.
Arguments Against UPGThe most common argument against UPG is that it cannot be proved. While this is certainly true, it should be remembered that many aspects of accepted religions are based on UPG that has been accepted as truth. For example, St. Paul certainly could not prove that he saw a vision of Jesus that led to his conversion, yet this is accepted as fact by millions of Christians because the tale of it was included in the Bible.
Many people write off UPG, particularly the more dramatic manifestations of it, as the product of overactive imaginations or even mental instability. Certainly practitioners should be aware of such potential issues and contemplate the validity of their experience, but just because you cannot prove something does not mean you invented it, nor that you are crazy. Yes, some people suffering mental conditions do involve religious ideas in their experiences, such as hearing the voice of God or Satan. That does not mean that everyone who has a religious experience must have such an underlying condition.