“Could you share your thoughts/opinions on the concept of “UPG,” and especially how it relates to orthopsychy? Do you see these ideas as similar, overlapping, very different?”
Let’s start with some definitions, since clear communication is always important.
I personally define UPG as unverifiable personal gnosis. To me, UPG is that you know or have experienced that is simply not verifiable by its very nature. I consider it similar (perhaps even synonymous) to one of the religious concepts of Mystery – those things we know or see or experience that are virtually or completely ineffable in human words and to human reasoning. I am well aware that this definition of UPG is vastly different from the several standard ones, but you asked my opinions, and these are them.
To define orthopsychy is a bit harder. It’s a term that doesn’t exist in any dictionary, or in any common religious parlance (though it should and I very strongly advocate for it becoming so). The literal definition is “right-spirited”, “right-souled”, or “right-lived”, and I use it in a couple of ways. The first is to describe the concept of the great pattern of existence, where everything is interconnected and every being, human or not, living or not, animate or not, has a unique and vital place in that pattern. This is similar, though a little different*, from what PIE religion terms Xártus.
The second is to describe what that place actually is, what some (such as Plotkin) have termed a person’s “soul-image” – an image or story or idea or symbol that fully encapsulates and defines each individual’s concept of wholeness, of connection, of being fully integrated into the wider cosmos, of their unique gifts that they have to bring to others. Mine is the image of Raven spinning tales in a twilight glen. Someone else might be a woman singing the true songs of her soul, or a serpent with iridescent scales remaking the world, or any other of the innumerable soul-images that make up the pattern from beginning to end.
These could be classified as “unified orthopsychy” and “individual orthopsychy,” or outer and inner, or however you want to call it.
There is a third type of orthopsychy, and that is “local” or “communal” orthopsychy. Given Waincraft’s intense focus on bioregional animism and diversity, this local orthopsychy serves as an intermediary between the other two forms, shaping each person’s experiences, metaphors, images and gnoses with the patterns that are unique to each geographic bioregion. Thus, at the level of local orthopsychy, the greater pattern takes on the attributes, flavor, history, etc. of the local landscape and ecosystems. This is the level at which experiences begin to differ between practitioners, and the Powers take on the attributes and personalities that a hard polytheist would define as individual distinct beings.
Now, to answer the question – How do I think UPG relates to orthopsychy?
My definition of UPG is fairly similar to both the first and second types of orthopsychy, in that it is extremely symbolic and relevant to the greater pattern as well as the individual person.
The standard definition would probably fall between the second and third kinds, in that it is knowledge gained by an individual that is not shared by others’ experiences. The reasons for that can be because it is only relevant to that person’s soul and needs, or because the nature of their local landscape is necessarily different from that of someone living in a different biome, and thus their experiences and gnoses will also necessarily differ, because they’re using different symbol sets.
For the end, though, I think UPG as a term is only as useful as an agreed upon qualifier that is used by someone to classify their own paradigms. I am firmly against the practice of labeling someone else’s practices, experiences, etc. as UPG in a derogatory, belittling or diminishing sense.
*For example, there is no distinction in orthopsychy between creation and destruction and the Powers and beings that embody those forces. There is no such thing as an Outsider in the Waincraft cosmology, because it is all a part of the pattern, and the powers of destruction and chaos are as vital and inherent to the cosmos as those of creation and order, represented in the figures of Wildness and Abundance, who are twins, and thus share one soul.