Know Your Gut… But How Far is Too Far? (PBP)

Check your gut.

What’s your gut telling you?

Listen to your instincts.

Does it feel right?

Just do what feels right.

How often, as pagans, do we hear or read this in some form or another? I see it quite regularly. I’ve been informed on an occasion or three that how things work in my life isn’t always the norm, but I have to assume that I’m not the only person in a hundred miles who has ever heard any of the above questions or statements. It doesn’t matter in what venue, either, because invariably you’ll hear something along these lines and it will affect you in some way or another: either a good deal or hardly at all. But, it does make you begin to wonder. If we listen to our instincts more closely, how often can we keep ourselves from being hurt by others? How often can we know the way a situation will play out before it actually happens? And how else will we know how the gods want things from us?

On the one hand, we have this awesome innate power known as gut instinct that we don’t use too much anymore. In a time, long ago, this wasn’t the case. It was something that we used or we were as good as dead. But, as the times have changed, so too have the things we relied upon. Instead of listening to what our inner senses tell us about anything or anyone, we rely on our vehicles, our computers, our cell phones, and technology as a whole. We’ve fallen out of the age where listening to what was felt deep within our hearts was the difference between life and death. Hell, I’m guilty of it. I don’t listen to what my gut tells me, more often than not. When I say or do things on this blog, I try to listen to that innate, inner sense that discerns a good deal better than my eyes or my ears or any of my other senses can. But, just because I pay attention to it where this blog is concerned does not mean that I rely on it as heavily in any other area of my life. I’m too much into logic and reality, I suppose. I’m too much into the here and now as opposed to the what could be or what should be that my instincts are telling me.

The reason, simply, being is that the organ has withered with disuse. That’s how it is here, in my household, anyway. I say to trust your guts, but I also have to wonder, how far can they take you? And how far are you willing to go?

In practice, we tend to hear this chatter about gut instincts more often as unverified personal gnosis, or UPG. To me, the two are fairly synonymous, although in the case of one we can take it out of a spiritual or religious context and in the case of the other, UPG, we cannot. The thing is though, they are both based entirely on what feels right as opposed to what we think may be right. And there lies an issue for me, as well as some others. (One of whom gave me the idea of this post in the first place.) How far do we take what the gut says or what feels like a good idea when we could possibly read a book or read another’s opinion and come up with something that is antithetical to what we had just supposed was so right seconds before? Should you build an entire practice based solely one what your insides are telling you or should you stop a minute and pick up a beginner’s guide, or read a blog, or read an article, or pick up a book that’s a bit more than a beginner’s guide? What’s more important: thinking or feeling? And honestly, can the two meet somewhere in the middle?

I don’t use UPG or gut instinct very often in my practice, as I said. I’m on a more reconstructionist road now than I was back when I thought I was a reconstructionist! (Ha! How funny is that?) And while the link above does make mention that UPG is used invariably in the realm of a recon’s viewpoint, this isn’t always the case. And it’s not really the case in my practice, either. I’m not saying that I don’t use it (how else would I have learned that Sekhmet likes tequila?), but it holds little weight when I can pick up a book and see something that works more practically or seems better than what I was thinking in the first place. Or, even, I’ll find something that I thought was feeling right and find that it was what the ancients did in the first place!

I guess, really, it comes down to what everyone feels and thinks. What I practice and what I feel and what I think and what I read can work easily for me, but that doesn’t mean it would work well for you or you or you over there, down in back.

But how far do we take all of this talk of gut instinct and UPG? Should we base our practice solely on these instances? Or should we incorporate them into something that someone else started, either in current times or long ago? I think it’s folly, just as someone else said earlier, to base a practice entirely on what feels right. The reason being that without others’ opinions and others’ books and others’ viewpoints, then we’re not really growing or experiencing anything but stagnating in a practice that’s based solely on a single aspect instead of being as multifaceted as we are and the gods are and the spirits are. And just because it feels right doesn’t necessarily mean that the gods will take too kindly to it.

When I brought home the tequila bottle, I had the intense belief that I would be god-smacked upside the head for not bringing home beer and red food dye. (Can you dye beer? I don’t know.) I was gnawing at my lip and I was sweating like a fool, but there it was in the cup I had provided. Lo and behold! She liked it. I did okay in that regard, but that’s only one instance in many where I didn’t do so well with something I thought would work out. I should hope that if I err in any UPG I may rely upon, the gods would tell me. But sometimes, maybe, there is a god or two that may not take too kindly to such mistakes. And then, how will you know? And for those without a good, steady god-phone (like myself), how will you know? And for those who have a steady god-phone but the god is busy, how will you know?

But, really, and honestly… this is all “what if” and “maybe.” UPG holds a place, but to me, the place is minor. It is no rare gem that we should hold up to the sunlight and watch make beautiful rays fall about the room. It is something that is intensely personal and it is something that we should rely upon, true. However, in so doing, we should err more on the side of caution. And truly, we shouldn’t base everything that we do entirely on what the gut says. Just because the gut says it doesn’t necessarily make it true. If all of our instincts were true all of the time, then this world would be a vastly different place. Hell, we could all probably live a good deal longer and stop making so many mistakes. I doubt Rome would have been sacked. I doubt Caesar would have been killed on the Ides. I doubt that Xerxes would have let so many men fall in the pass at Thermopylae. I doubt Akhenaten would have risen to the throne. I doubt that the Mayan and Aztec would have allowed the Spanish on their shores. But instincts failed great men, many men, just as they fail simple men.

And that’s something we should pay closer attention to when we tout how important UPG is in our practice.

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15 thoughts on “Know Your Gut… But How Far is Too Far? (PBP)

  1. To my mind, gut instinct and UPG are very different things. Gut instinct is very important, both generally in life and in spiritual practice. But it is, by definition, listening to oneself. Tuning in to your deepest subconscious, where you are often wiser than your day-to-day babbling sort of mind is. Feeling it out, as you said. UPG, however, is *gnosis* – it is a revelation, a divine experience, a mystical knowledge. It is not just a feeling, nor an intellectual idea. Theoretically, at least, it comes from *outside* of ourselves, from the gods, the spirits, the universe.

    My gut instinct might tell me that X could be a perfect offering for a certain god. I may be right. But UPG is when I give that offering and experience, in some undeniable way, that the god approves. Or when I have a vision of the god doing or saying something. That sort of thing.

    I rely on my gut instincts for a lot of things, divine and not, on a daily basis. I am trying to do more so all the time, because when I pay attention to that, I generally fare better. But for the truly big stuff, I turn to the gods for guidance – through divination, trance, etc. Especially when it’s regarding the gods Themselves.

    • I really appreciate your comment. It really got me thinking long and hard about what I had written. And maybe, possibly (okay, let’s be real: definitely) redefining what I was thinking.

  2. Some times, I think I’m a hypocrite because I rely a lot upon what my insides tell me. However, I had also read a lot, and I’m willing to change or reconsider what I think based off of other’s knowledge- and I think that’s important too. I feel I’m lucky enough to have a pretty in-tune instinct, with a fairly good working god radio (having a loud mouth god is helpful, too), and that can help. But as I mentioned earlier, I do think that knowledge and UPG have to meet somewhere in the middle. I see a lot of UPG that is entirely foolish and completely not based in history- and it saddens me to see that occur. Because it doesn’t have to.

    • I asked a question somewhere about how UPG someone’s practice was and I got a response that startled me. To be honest, I thought I’d say “not really” or “some” as the answers. And for the most part, that seems to be the case. But someone told me that UPG pretty much is about 85% of the practice. I was shocked. I don’t really understand why UPG would be so… important, I guess, if there’s a possibility of it being in a book.

      It’s one thing to be practicing a religion that has little to no information available but quite another when the information is available.

  3. So, I have a confession, …. a little embarrassed about this, but until you posted the meaning of UPG, I had no idea what it meant! lol… Thank you. Srsly….

    In truth, I do rely on what I feel… to a point. I am an empath, so I have had to learn how to separate what I am feeling from what others around me are feeling. It can be confusing at times……

    • I’m glad I could help! The only reason I know the phrase is because of the forum I used to belong to. They used it fairly regularly and it got on my nerves that I didn’t know what it was. They made a nice little, handy-dandy list of possible phrases we would hear/see and not know.

      As an empath, you sometimes have to rely on what you’re feeling.

  4. To my mind and practice Gut instinct is tied closely (if not the same thing) as UPG. But I take it a step further. I put the gut instinct to the test. The information I receive is subjected to intense analysis (I’m a logic and reason kinda guy) and so I don’t take things at face value but tend to look below the surface. Unverified Personal Gnosis quickly becomes Verified Personal Gnosis and eventually becomes part of my practice. To my mind, Gut Instinct is the “God-Phone”. it is our direct line to the Divine (in what ever way we perceive the Divine). Often times it’s over looked or ignored. My own GI has at many times literally saved my life and given over certain information that has proved extremely helpful to myself or others. It has enabled me to create my own unique practice but based upon verified historical/archaeological information that was not available at the time.

    From what I have read, historical Druids trained themselves to be able to hear their inner voice (gut instinct). The hypothalamus is tied to the subconscious mind and gives a “wiggle” when information is being given or sought. It has taken me more than a decade of practice to trust that “wiggle” over what I experience with my conscious mind. I can honestly say that it has proved to be 100% accurate in every piece of information I received.

  5. ” But, as the times have changed, so too have the things we relied upon. Instead of listening to what our inner senses tell us about anything or anyone, we rely on our vehicles, our computers, our cell phones, and technology as a whole. We’ve fallen out of the age where listening to what was felt deep within our hearts was the difference between life and death.”

    I very much agree, this is why I always try to work on intuition and letting myself *feel*

    I disagree however with UPG being the same as gut instinct. While in some areas they might intersect, UPG also comes from vision work, lifting the veil, meditation or otherwise communing with the Spirits and the Gods. And sometimes, UPG brings something completely different than you felt on a gut level. I feel both complement each other rather than being the same. Then again, that’s how I’ve experienced things. It’s been quite a few times when I relied on my gut but upon further ‘digging’ sort to speak I was proved otherwise through UPG. And of course, times when they were confirmed.

    • I have a super-duper difficult time with my intuition. You know the phrase about first impressions usually being the correct? I try to go with that and what my intuition tells me about someone. But, then, I second-guess myself all the time. So, I tend to think of my intuition as a useless organ that’s shriveled and blackened with disuse. It worries me, too, because nine times out of ten, that first kick of intuition is correct. :/

  6. For me, gut instinct and UPG are not the same thing. UPG comes from the Gods – gut instinct, lore, and comparison with others’ UPG helps me discern whether it was a legit experience or my own vivid imagination. If I am still unsure about an experience, impartial divination is a must.

    • Everyone who has weighed in here is beginning to change my opinion, but really, I think this response (as well as Dver’s) were the two that really made me begin to wonder. So, for that, I thank you. I love learning (A) new things and (B) new opinions and then letting them reformulate something I was thinking.

  7. Thanks for writing on this topic. While I don’t agree at all with your marginalization of UPG or it’s lumping in with ‘gut instinct’, I’m always interested in what others have to say about it.

  8. Gut feel is only mildly related to UPG, in my mind. Gnosis means something much bigger to me: It’s an important spiritual realization. The most I hope for is to align what I glean in those AHA! moments with something that’s been done or said before in ancient Kemet. Often I can find echoes of it in wisdom literature, documented rituals, examples of personal piety, or even the language itself. The tradition itself becomes more meaningful that way.

    We have access to such a wealth of spiritual truth embedded in 5000+ years of rich tradition that would take several lifetimes to digest. If I could truly add something to that that wasn’t there before…wow…that would be an incredible achievement.

    I do have moments where I think Djehuti might be okay with a casual offering of coffee, for example, but in my mind, that’s more of a gut feel thing than a gnosis thing. That kind of thing has it’s place, but I don’t think that place is propping up the temple walls.

    I agree wholeheartedly that too much reliance on the gut isn’t a good idea, and not just because instincts are sometimes wrong. I think it’s a bad idea because when you’re right, you’re using that information to reinvent the wheel. I also think it’s a bad idea because a tradition built entirely on one’s gut feelings is probably also a tradition without a community. It’s hard to see how reliance to such an extreme degree won’t stunt growth.

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