Therefore he who is Gnostic is truly a being from above. When he is called he hears; he answers; he directs himself to Him who calls him and returns to Him; he apprehends how he is called. By possessing Gnosis, he carries out the will of Him who called him and seeks to do what pleases Him. He receives the repose. He who thus possesses knowledge knows whence he comes and whither he goes. He understands as someone who makes himself free and awakens from the drunkenness wherein he lived and returns to himself.Gospel of Truth
Our Gospel reading for the Sunday of Epiphany deals with what being a Gnostic means: the hearing, the answering, the returning, the method of being called, by carrying out the will of the One Who Calls, and what the Gnostic receives: knowledge and understanding, awareness of what this life can be, and what the return means.
That’s all well and good. How does the Gnostic obtain this knowledge? In the cacophony of voices we hear: our parents, our teachers, our preachers, our leaders, the media, and the voices in our own heads – whether made up of divine inspiration or biological defect or messages absorbed before we developed filters – how do we separate the wheat from the chaff?
There is a topic being discussed among modern mystics which has been given the title Unverified Personal Gnosis (UPG). It is sort of a catch all for any spiritual revelation that is not contained in any existing lore. It is an interesting topic, for one of the main methods I use to verify my own gnostic experiences is to turn to tradition and scripture to see if they have been experienced before, and perhaps written down.
The AJC as a general rule, makes space for Unverified Personal Gnosis (UPG): If you receive something that enhances your spiritual life, then that is all to the good, and you’re welcomed and encouraged to practice it. The place where the AJC, as an institution, has to draw the line is when the gnosis received cannot be supported by scripture or tradition. The Church rightly sets down very few doctrines, and our access to both scripture and tradition is much wider than previous generations. Because of this, the doctrines set down by the Church are not changed without a great deal of consideration and research.
A good method for determining what is gnosis is to look at the traditions of the Church, the scriptures, and our own reason, and see what is revealed that can sit on all three legs of that stool: Is it supported by tradition? Can it be found in scripture? Is it reasonable? If it meets all three of these criteria, it has a good chance of being gnosis.
For more information on Divine Guidance, see my talk about Divine Guidance and Divination.