March 22, 2013

KRT: Unverified personal gnosis (UPG)

Posted in Being Kemetic, Kemetic Roundtable, Thoughts and Reflections at 2:10 pm by

Unverified Personal Gnosis/Doxa:
– What is it, how you do get it?
– What are the rules on it?
– How important is it? Should we rely on it?
– Should we pay attention to others’ UPG, or let it influence our own UPG/practice?


So very timely for me, this subject, as I’m currently staring down the deadline for writing a ritual with an extremely personal-gnosis focus.

As you might guess from the above, I do make fairly heavy use of personal gnosis. I dance a fine line here — as a Kemetic Orthodox W’ab priest, in my official mode I have to follow a very formalized set of practices. Although I receive a fair bit of personal gnosis during the state rite, the state rite is not the place to enact that gnosis. And that’s fine.

And then there’s this tremendous in-pouring of creative inspiration and out-pouring of creative expression, with a whole lot of crackling mental connections and “ooh!” and “aha!” moments in between the two. (Not to mention the occasions when one or another of the Gods will come right out and say something that melts my brain.) All of this has to go somewhere — has to find use somewhere. Trying to process all these insights and make a place for them in practice while still remaining coherent and reasonably traditional can be a real challenge, even with polyvalent thinking to smooth out the paradoxes. Whee.

When I first realized that my heart lay with Bast, something that was very important (to me or to Her? or to both of us? I’m not quite sure at this point) was to learn how She would have traditionally been honored in ancient Egypt. I didn’t want to fold her into my generic semi-neo-wiccan sort-of-a-practice; I didn’t want to just make stuff up. That was how I ended up in Kemetic Orthodoxy in the first place.

Granted, it could be said — and there are certainly people out there who would say it — that Kemetic Orthodoxy is itself rooted in Rev. Siuda’s personal gnosis. The Rite of Parent Divination, for example, originated in a directive from Sekhmet; it was created to fill a modern need that would have been unknown in ancient Kemet, where from childhood one would be aware of one’s Gods, the Gods of the nome, of the community, of the family. In other respects, however — the importance of purity, the prayers we speak, the holy days we celebrate, the veneration of the ancestors and the embracing of ma’at — Kemetic Orthodoxy is quite traditional.

To my mind, both historical study and personal gnosis have their places. Historical study gives us a solid, shared structure that contains us and gives us a level place to stand. It unifies us across the boundaries of individuals and small groups — without it, I wouldn’t be writing this post, as there wouldn’t be a Kemetic roundtable. (It would be a “group of people with random Egyptianish beliefs” roundtable.) Personal gnosis — and shared gnosis, or generally accepted gnosis — patch the gaps and embellish the structure. I think we would be a lot poorer if we were missing either element.

How much can we rely on gnosis? That depends on how well we’re able to determine whether it is both functional and “true” — and by “true,” I mean true to the spirit of the myths, the practices, the Gods, and true to our own experiences. This holds whether it’s our own gnosis or that of other people. As others have said, discernment is key in spiritual practice; and learning discernment is a process. It doesn’t come all at once.

When I share something from my personal experiences, I try to draw a very clear line between what comes from me and what comes from history, even though I’m fairly sure that this very distinction is not in itself historical. I have trouble imagining that the ancient Kemetics footnoted their practices. Maybe they had a clearer channel to the Gods. Or maybe they just trusted their channels more. In any case, this distinction is crucial for some people, and I enjoy supplying it anyway, being perhaps a little too proud of showing off my bonafides. Plus I don’t really want to send someone new, who hasn’t yet developed their own sense of discernment, hopping off down the bunny trail, only for them to get totally confused or to be slapped down by someone else for “doing it wrong.”

In any event, I don’t think I could do a religion that didn’t leave room for personal gnosis. To me, personal gnosis is the knowing of the heart, the knowing that resounds through all my bodies, and my life is immeasurably enriched by what the Gods show me. But I also find great joy and enrichment in studying the traditions of the past, which connect me other Kemetics, both ancient and modern. A downside of personal gnosis can be its isolating factor, when no one else shares those particular understandings. I think it’s essential to balance it out with what can be verified and shared.

(Links to other Kemetic Roundtable posts on UPG can be found here.)

1 Comment »

  1. UPG & Doxa: The Basics | Kemetic Round Table | Kemetic Round Table said,

    March 22, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    […] UPG: Gold of the Valley, Lapis of the River […]

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