In discussions on Paganism, Druidry, and nature-centered spirituality, you often hear the terms UPG, VPG, and maybe even SPG. So what do these terms mean?

In Druidry as practiced by the Black Mountain Druid Order, we seek to recapture Celtic shamanism. One of the skills of the Celtic shaman is to be able to walk between the worlds, visit the Otherworld, and bring back knowledge. But how do we know that the knowledge we’re bringing back is accurate? That’s where the terms UPG and VPG come in.

UPG stands for “Unverified Personal Gnosis.” The word “gnosis” comes from the Greek word for “knowledge.” Unverified Personal Gnosis is therefore a personal experience or knowledge that has not been verified by history or the experiences of others. A UPG experience might hold great meaning to the person who had it, but unless verified in some way, it must remain UPG.

For example, if someone comes to me and tells me that they went on a shamanic journey and met Aengus Mac Og, and Aengus demanded that I give him all my wealth and personal goods, I’m going to need some independent verification before I act on this person’s word.

VPG, on the other hand, stands for “Verified Personal Gnosis.” VPG experiences are those a person may have had that has been verified by history, archaeology, or by the experiences of others.

I first discovered Druidry in 1978. Back then we began experimenting with trying to recapture Celtic shamanism. This work got into more depth in the early 1980s. In those times there weren’t a lot of other Druid organizations, but as time progressed, more and more people became interested in Celtic shamanism and we started encountering people who were engaged in the same sort of experimentation we were. What was interesting, and a confirmation of what we were doing, is that they were getting many of the same messages that we were in their own journeys to the Otherworld. The most common and most significant message we were all receiving is that there was a great change coming, and that people all over the world would re-discover their ancestral roots. The message was that indigenous spirituality would undergo a great rebirth. This has since come to pass as Druidry, Paganism and other forms of indigenous spirituality have grown all over the world.

These shamanic experiences were a shared vision from the Otherworld. Since other people had similar experiences and could verify what we had been seeing and hearing, these experiences became VPG…”Verified Personal Gnosis.”

Because these events were also shared among people from various locations at different times with no prior knowledge of what the others were doing, they also were SPG events, or “Shared Personal Gnosis” events. They were personal because the messages were geared towards the individuals receiving them, and they were shared because the knowledge contained in the messages was similar and in some cases identical.

So what does all of this mean?

In any organization that promotes and seeks interaction with alternate realms of existence there is always a thin line to walk between people bringing back actual knowledge from other realms and from people being deceived by hucksters and would-be cult leaders. In the case of these con artists, they insist on followers taking their UPG as law, while in the case of actual messages from beyond, they tend to have ways to be verified.

VPG is a way to ask for and seek confirmation that such personal experiences are true and valid. By seeking confirmation, we minimize the danger of being deceived.

That is why in the Black Mountain Druid Order we always seek to verify any experiences before acting on them. When we do so, UPG becomes VPG, and VPG helps us to grow.