I talk about personal gnosis a lot, though I’ve never really given it a definition beyond any implicit ones that people could formulate from context clues. That has been a shortcoming, on this site and of my expression of my worldview in general: I can’t leave something so central to my take on theism so ethereal. Time to define just what the heck it is I’m talking about.
I experience two kinds of personal gnosis which I will define below. These are my own definitions, and I don’t want to push them onto others so much I want to present them, so that they will be easily available in the future.
Personal Gnosis Type A (or PG Type A) is pretty straightforward. This is the experience of seeing fictional characters, inanimate objects, works of art, and so on as having a sacredness or a divine essence. I may relate to these things as being godly, or belonging to my gods, or as gods in themselves. In other words, this is what I call the drive to say, “Hey, that’s a god!” or, “Hey, that’s related to one of my gods!” or, “Hey, that’s sacred!” when I see something that moves me in such a way. It is also what I call my conceptualizations of the divine that result from that drive, i.e. my classification of certain fictional characters as gods.
From the time I was merely seven years old I regularly perceived godly presences in video game characters, as well as in the elements, and in natural settings. I didn’t have the vocabulary to describe what I experienced; I only knew that it felt immense, and important, and that I wanted to get closer to it, whatever it happened to be. I was also aware of divine personalities (again, lacking the proper vocabulary) that my favorite video game characters possessed, which extended beyond their pixelated forms and scripted dialogue and made them awe-inspiringly larger than life.
Any kind of experience, whether it results from the senses or from the imagination, can undergo apotheosis, be regarded as PG Type A, and can become a divine fixture in a person’s life.
Personal Gnosis Type B (or PG Type B) has to do with interaction, or divine communion. For me, this is the understanding of how I as an individual interact with the divine as defined by my PG Type A. Common methods of interacting with the divine involve praying, meditating, contemplating, and sometimes include artistic pursuits or making offerings. Oftentimes this interaction is not a one-way street, and people hear their gods talk back while they pray, or they experience a sacred presence which makes them feel at ease. In some cases, people actually perceive their gods as setting up life events in certain ways, so that they can learn lessons and become better people.
PG Type B is usually where people sense intention or will as an aspect of divine figures. This is also where theists hone and utilize the practice of discernment. “Discernment” means discerning the will/words/visions/etc. of one’s god(s) from other mental signals and noise. Just like every theist’s personal gnosis is different, every theist’s methods of discernment are also different. Some look for certain types of thoughtforms as indications of divine contact, while others rely on feelings to inform them of divine presence. Some people recognize possessions (as in Vodou) as authentic presentations of gods or spirits while other people choose not to recognize them.
Both of these types of personal gnosis can be altered willfully, to some degree. Sometimes one just can’t help but see a divine figure in a certain fictional character, but if the presence of that divine figure is an inconvenience for some reason then it’s not wrong to attempt to alter that perception. Likewise, it’s not wrong to change methods of discernment mid-week or even mid-thought. Experimentation with different personal gnoses and different methods of discernment is just as legit as experimentation with styles of dress or diet. In any area of life, finding what works is a good thing.